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Anti-government protesters flash victory signs as they burn tyres in Budaiya, west of Manama, yesterday.

Anti-government protesters flash victory signs as they burn tyres in Budaiya, west of Manama, yesterday.

Anti-government protesters flash victory signs as they burn tyres in Budaiya, west of Manama, yesterday.

The Bahrain Grand Prix went ahead yesterday without disruption despite continuing unrest and protests in the Gulf island.

Violent disturbances have been intensifying in recent days with around 50,000 anti-government protesters gathering around the capital Manama, just 25 miles away from where the race meeting took place.

Opponents have fought pitched battles with security officials, with claims that protester Salah Habib Abbas (37) was killed by shotgun pellets fired by riot police on a rooftop during an overnight raid.

The race itself passed peacefully, despite rumours that leading opposition party al-Wefaq had planned a protest inside the track.

German Sebastian Vettel won the race in front of a half-full main grandstand, with every other stand empty.

Fahad al Binali, spokesman for the Bahrain Information Affairs Authority, told the BBC he was "surprised" some protesters had campaigned against the race, saying it had provided them with "a platform" to a global audience.

Mercedes and McLaren team bosses Ross Brawn and Martin Whitmarsh criticised British politicians for what they believed was a belated stance on the grand prix.

Pressure

Mr Brawn said: "I find it very frustrating that politicians in the UK were saying we should withdraw once we got here. Why didn't they say anything beforehand?"

British Prime Minister David Cameron had resisted pressure to call for the cancellation of the event, insisting it was a matter for the F1 authorities. But Labour's Peter Hain said he thought the "wrong judgment" had been made.

"I'm a Formula One fan myself, I strongly support the sport, but I think they made the wrong judgment in holding this race as a fixed part of the calendar at this time, when human rights abuses are very serious," he said.

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Irish Independent