Shooting of 15-year-old at funeral fuels the doubts over Bahrain race

By Chris Power

The claim by Formula One’s powerbrokers that the Bahrain Grand Prix can go ahead safely next weekend began to unravel on Saturday amid reports that a 15-year-old mourner at a funeral had been shot and seriously wounded by riot police.
In another development, the top Oxfordshire-based Williams team are claimed to have released one of their catering staff after she refused to attend the race in the troubled Gulf state because of human rights abuses there.
The confrontation between forces acting for the ruling Al Khalifa family and anti-government protesters occurred at the funeral on Friday of Ahmed Ismail Hassan, a 22-year-old journalist.

As the F1 teams prepared for today’s Chinese Grand Prix, the safety and moral dilemma regarding Bahrain was brought into sharp focus by Williams’ decision to part company with one of their catering staff, who is said to have decided not to travel to the race. 
It is understood the employee had signed a contract to attend all 20 races this season before telling Williams she was not prepared to go to Bahrain. Williams declined to comment last night but did confirm an employee had left the company.
F1’s 12 teams have agreed with the FIA and commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone to be present at all the races on the 2012 calendar.
FIA president Jean Todt was at the circuit on the outskirts of Shanghai yesterday but did not add to Friday’s statement expressing satisfaction with assurances from the Bahraini government that it is safe to stage the race.

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh insisted he retains full faith in the ability of F1’s governing authorities to make the correct call regarding the race.
‘We are a sports team,’ said Whitmarsh. ‘We have a calendar set out in front of us. We don’t determine that. To be drawn into comment on political and human rights issues would be inappropriate.
‘We are mindful of security which we have to take at some venues. We are not always as comfortable as we would like to be but, ultimately, we don’t decide that.
‘There are clearly problems in Bahrain but we don’t believe that there are individual threats posed to us.
‘We can ask questions of lots of venues we go to. There is a lot of stress going to Brazil and India but we have 20 rounds and we go to compete.’

According to the main opposition group, Al-Wefaq, teenager Mohammed Ahmed Abdel Aziz is in intensive care after being shot in the chest while several people were wounded during the funeral attended by thousands of Bahrainis. Ecclestone continues to say F1 teams, their staff and fans face no significant danger in Bahrain despite the continued unrest which forced the cancellation of the event last year.