Protestors march on Friday as Bahrain GP looms


Thousands of anti-government protestors in Bahrain marched near the country’s capital of Manama on Friday as part of a series of demonstrations set to coincide with next weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix.

According to Al-Jazeera, the protest was organized by the opposition bloc Al-Wefaq, whose head, Sheikh Ali Salman, told the news network that while they weren’t seeking to hold up the race with their demands for reform, they were “trying to benefit from the increased media presence.”

Among other chants, the protestors — which marched in a line that was more than a mile long according to the Associated Press — shouted “your race is a crime” in reference to the event according to witnesses. Al-Jazeera is also reporting that another demonstration is planned for April 19, the first official day of the Bahrain GP weekend.

The country has denied making a number of pre-emptive arrests leading up to the Grand Prix, with Human Rights Watch claiming that 20 people were arrested without warrants.

Last year’s race at Bahrain was marred by protests and violence. One of the bigger incidents involved Force India team members having to escape from a incident between protestors and police, which involved fuel bombs getting tossed over their vehicle while they were heading away from the track. No one on the team was injured.

The continued uneasiness in Bahrain has also caused some Formula One sponsors to limit involvement in the race and move most of their advertising in the Middle East toward the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November.

Ferrari teammates Vettel and Raikkonen fastest in rainy final practice at Australian GP

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen went one-two in the final practice session ahead of qualifying at the water-logged Australian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Vettel set a best-lap time of 1 minute, 26.067 seconds, more than 2.4 seconds faster than his teammate in second.

Both Ferrari drivers switched from their intermediate tires to the super-fast, ultra-soft tires for the final few laps of the session, testing conditions on the track after a day-long downpour left it slick and filled with small puddles.

Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton did not opt to try out their soft tires, sticking to the intermediates for the entire session. They had the seventh- and eighth-fastest times, after topping the leaderboard in practice in dry conditions on Friday.

The heavy rains subsided by early afternoon, allowing the track to rapidly dry during the third practice session and making conditions safe for drivers to test their soft tires.

Still, only a few drivers completed a timed lap with the softer compounds, with Mercedes, Red Bull and most of the others staying with their intermediates.

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson had the third-fastest time of the session on ultrasoft tires, followed by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on intermediates.

Hamilton remains the favorite to capture his fifth straight pole position at the Australian Grand Prix in qualifying later Saturday. He had the fastest laps on ultrasoft tires in the two practice sessions on Friday, though Verstappen was right behind him.

Verstappen and Vettel both slid on the slick track early in the third practice session, but maintained control and completed their runs without incident.

Verstappen’s teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, had the sixth-fastest time of the session. The Australian’s chances of winning his fifth career Grand Prix on his home track in Melbourne took a hit late Friday when he was assessed a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

The Australian driver was penalized for driving too fast under red-flag conditions during Friday’s second practice session because of debris on the track.