British Labour MP Richard Burden has joined calls for the Bahrain Grand Prix to be cancelled, amid fresh concerns about the ongoing political trouble in the Gulf island state.
Former World Champion Damon Hill said this week that the FIA should rethink the hosting of the Sakhir race amid the continued unrest in the kingdom. Burden, who under the last government was a special advisor to the UK' s Minister of Sport, Richard Caborn, on motorsport, has now backed Hill's view.
"Damon Hill is right to call on the governing body of motor sport to rethink its decision to go ahead with this year's Bahrain Grand Prix," Burden wrote in a column for the Huffington Post. "I say that as someone who is a motor sport nut as well as an MP with a keen interest in the Middle East.
"In a context where genuine and sustainable reform is taking place, holding a grand prix could be a unifying event for the people of Bahrain as well as a positive showcase on the world stage. But things are not at that stage.
"Since February last year, 45 people have died on Bahrain's streets. The latest victim was killed by live ammunition only last week. Hundreds of protesters gathered at the cemetery near his home outside the capital, Manama. Reports say riot police fired tear gas and stun grenades into the crowds, setting off running street clashes.
Although Burden is convinced the Bahrain government will do everything possible to make sure F1 is not affected by the situation, he reckons grand prix racing's reputation will be badly harmed.
"No doubt the Bahrain authorities will move heaven and earth to minimize any risks to the teams taking part," he said. "But the long term damage to the reputation of F1 and motorsport in general could be considerable.
"In hindsight, the FIA should not have scheduled the 2012 race so early in the season. It was always going to be too early to know how far things had moved on in Bahrain since last year. F1 can't turn the clock back but, with three weeks to go before the race, it can still rethink. It should do so."