Worried Force India team member leaves Bahrain

Panama: A Force India Formula One team employee has been allowed to return home from Bahrain after expressing safety fears ahead of this weekend`s controversial grand prix, a spokesman said on Thursday.

A rental vehicle was caught up in an incident on the highway returning from the track on Wednesday evening when traffic was halted with flames from a petrol bomb lighting up the road ahead. Nobody was injured.

Numerous anti-government protests took place in and around Manama on Wednesday evening, with more planned leading up to the race including one near the circuit according to the U.S. embassy.

British-based Force India said they had not been a target and nobody was hurt.

However, one unnamed employee had asked to be sent home and the team had agreed to the request.

The MRS team entered in the supporting Porsche SuperCup series has also withdrawn its entry from the weekend season-opener, citing safety reasons.

"It is the first time in our team history that we have had to cancel a race of the Porsche Supercup," team head Karsten Molitor told autosport.com. "In the end we have the responsibility for our employees."

Anti-government protesters are planning `Days of Rage` ahead of Sunday`s race while security forces have rounded up dozens of activists in a clampdown on the opposition.

Bahrain has been in turmoil, with almost daily protests, since a democracy movement erupted last year after popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.

Local authorities have said teams need not worry about their personal safety but John Yates, the former assistant commissioner of London`s Metropolitan police who has been hired to oversee reform of Bahrain`s police force, said there could be no guarantees.

"People say can we guarantee security. Of course we can`t guarantee security. I`d be a fool to sit here and say that," he told the Guardian newspaper.

"I judge it more likely there will be protests on the route and around the villages. I just hope it`s a good event and I hope it goes off without too much trouble."

Police maintained a low-key presence around the circuit on Thursday morning, although it is likely to be stepped up considerably closer to the event and in the evening when teams are returning to Manama.

One race driver said he had seen tens of police cars along the route on Wednesday.

Bureau Report

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