Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has said that he cannot force teams to race in the Bahrain Grand Prix if they do not want to go, amid growing concerns over further unrest in the troubled Gulf state.
F1's teams have so far backed the FIA and the Sakhir circuit chiefs to make the right decision as to whether the event should take place on April 22, and to ensure the safety of attending personnel. However some teams are known to have concerns about racing in Bahrain at this time.
Ecclestone, who has reportedly met with protest leaders and proposed they hold a press conference on the weekend of the grand prix, told The Times on Monday that he sympathized with the teams' situation and said: "If the teams don't want to go, then we cannot make them."
According to Ecclestone, the decision to cancel or postpone the race must come from the FIA, the event organizers or the Crown Prince of the kingdom.
The fate of the Bahrain GP seems set to overshadow this weekend's race in China, with the FIA stating that it is closely monitoring the situation. Concerns heightened on Monday, when a homemade bomb was detonated at a protest in Manama - injuring seven policemen.
The incident came amid increased tension caused by the fate of jailed activist Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, who has been on hunger strike for two months.
Meanwhile, John Yates, a former assistant commissioner in the London Metropolitan Police Service who now works for Bahrain's Interior Ministry, has warned that protesters planning to disrupt the event's running would be dealt with harshly.
"If people want to protest lawfully and give proper notice, as they have to, then they will be allowed to protest," Yates told the Associated Press. "But you can't have a protest that shuts off every road and doesn't allow people to get to the grand prix circuit.
"If someone chooses to invade the circuit, what an incredibly stupid and reckless thing to do.
"You saw what happened in the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race over the weekend. Anyone who invades the circuit is putting themselves in danger, putting the drivers in danger, putting potentially other spectators in danger. That will be clamped down on and properly so."