The issuing of a UK Foreign Office warning advising against "all but essential travel to Bahrain" has increased Formula 1 teams' concerns about the viability of the season opener, amid continuing political tension in Bahrain.
After further violence in Manama on Friday, the Foreign Office strengthened its warning against traveling to Bahrain today. Renault team boss Eric Boullier said this move makes the decision much more serious for teams.
"As a team principal, my only concern is the safety of my people," he said. "If, and I think it happened this morning, the Foreign Office in the UK says 'don't travel to Bahrain', this is my legal responsibility that none of my people are injured or hurt if I take the decision to send them there.
"Now I am concerned that if the FIA or FOM say we'll go and race there, I'll need some guarantees that obviously the security is guaranteed for my people."
At present, the final test of the winter is scheduled for March 3-6 at Sakhir, with the season-opening race following on March 11-13. Bernie Ecclestone has indicated that a decision about both the race and test will be made early next week, which Boullier says is essential.
"There are two issues. The first one is we are supposed to organise pack-up for Tuesday to send everything over to Bahrain for testing. This is now compromised. It is very unlikely to happen," he said. "The race event itself, I wish it would happen – for the first reason because that would mean there is no more death and everything is quiet in Bahrain. The second thing is, there are so many interests involved here and we love to go and race in Bahrain, so we want to go, definitely we want to go. But obviously there is a security issue which has to be solved.
"For the test, we need to take a decision on Monday, and for the race I heard that Bernie wants to wait until Tuesday maybe, or Wednesday. When there is a Foreign Office decision, then we are more concerned."
Moves are afoot to organize an additional test in place of the Bahrain GP if the race is called off, and to find an alternative venue for the scheduled Sakhir test as well. Pirelli motorsport chief Paul Hembery warned that re-organizing tests could have logistical implications for F1's new tire supplier, which has already despatched some tires and other equipment on its journey to Bahrain.
"At the moment we haven't really been involved in the discussions," he said. "We clearly have a fair amount of material and equipment that's already on the way to Bahrain – and we can't turn that around, so any decision that we make is a going to have a big impact logistically on us.
"That's something that we're waiting to hear from the sport – it's not just the teams, we've got FOM involved and the FIA. And I think that needs pulling together very early next week, from our point of view, because we're starting up – it's not that we have a warehouse full of lots of tires at the moment.
"Any decision made, it's not automatic that we will be able to support those decisions. If the tests follow the same dates as Bahrain then possibly we have a chance, or later would help a lot of course. If Australia becomes the first race then of course we can fit in an additional test session."
Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso said the drivers and teams were 'on standby' waiting for Formula One Management and the FIA to decide whether to go ahead with the Bahrain events.
"Obviously, now it's time to wait," he said. "We are all on standby waiting for some decisions from our bosses and some news from Bahrain. Personally, I like Bahrain – I've won there three times, we've been racing there for many years, so we'll see. I think the drivers, mechanics, team members, we have nothing really to say until we have a decision."