Bahraini politician Dr Jasim Husain, a senior opposition figure and former MP for Al-Wefaq, had an informal chat with visiting F1 journalists this morning.
Escorted into the Sakhir media centre by FOM and FIA representatives, he gave a positive view on the presence of the Grand Prix this weekend, and played down the connection between ongoing protests and the race.
His visit came as the paddock absorbed the news that Force India mechanics were caught up in a road block and firebombing incident on the way home from the track last night, fortunately without any consequences, although one team member asked to return to Europe.
“Most people in Bahrain are happy that F1 is back in Bahrain,” said Dr Husain, “given its effects on the economy and social aspects, and see this as a sporting and economic event, rather as a political issue.”
Asked whether the race will be good for the country, he said: “I think so, Bahrain is going to benefit. We are going to be on the international news for three days, and focussing on the positive implications. So it is something very useful. It’s going to be changing the mood from some hot political issues to some sporting stuff, and definitely most people are happy with sports.
“Protests are definitely going to take place, we’ve been having protests before the event, and we’re going to have them during and afterwards, but there’s no connection.”
When it as suggested that some protests were focussed on F1, he said: “It is easy to say that, but if F1 was not here, they would still be going on, so this is not the reason. For them it’s an opportunity to raise awareness, but this is not the reason we’re having the protests.”
“We’ve always had some people who are not happy with F1, even in normal times, some people for religious reasons were not happy with it. You can in no way have all groups happy. But I can tell you most people are pleased and happy.”
Asked if he was personally concerned by security issues, he said: “Security is never really a big issue in Bahrain. I’m certainly not concerned. The protests are very much peaceful. People are having political issues which have to be addressed one way or the other, even after you guys leave we have some challenges.
“Bahrain stands out as peaceful, we are a tolerant society, we are a society where foreign nationals make up the majority of the population, they make up 52% of the population and 62% of the labour force with no hate crimes. People here are very tolerant and accepting of foreign nationals.”