The Bahrain government has denied rounding up and arresting members of the political opposition ahead of next week’s F1 race.
Human Rights Watch claims 20 people were arrested including leaders of anti-government protests.
“These raids and detentions suggest that officials are more concerned with getting activists out of circulation for the Formula One race than with addressing the legitimate grievances that have led so many Bahrainis to take to the streets,” said the organization’s Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson.
A government information minister denied claims the 20 had been unlawfully arrested without warrants being produced.
“We discredit any news of such arrests in recent days or even months,” said Bahrain information minister Sameera Rajab. “This doesn’t happen in Bahrain. If there is any action against peace and security, it must be dealt with according to law.”
Human Rights Watch claims to have information from local sources that “activists who live in towns close by or next to the track for the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix and who have led anti-government protests in the past” have been targeted for arrest since the beginning of the month.
Bernie Ecclestone said last week “I haven’t had any negative reports from anybody there.”
“I don’t think they’ll upset the talks by making protests,” he added. “It didn’t help them last year, so if they had any brains they’d just get on with their talks.”
Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.
The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.
“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.
Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”
Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.
“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.
Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.