Ecclestone repeats Bahrain denials

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Bernie Ecclestone has repeated his claim that there are no demonstrations against this weekend’s Formula One race in Bahrain.

“They’re demonstrating now? I didn’t know that,” he said when asked by news agency AFP. “There’s nobody demonstrating.”

A car exploded late on Sunday in the financial district of the country’s capital Manama. A group calling itself the February 14 movement – a reference to the pro-democracy protests of 2011 that were brutally suppressed by the government – claimed responsibility.

That year’s race was cancelled due to the crisis. Last year’s Grand Prix went ahead amid extremely tight security. Despite that Force India team members were involved in an incident when a petrol bomb struck one of their vehicles. They later missed one of the practice sessions so their team could return to their hotel before nightfall.

Bahrain information minister Samira Rajab blamed the explosion on “terrorists” but claimed “there has been no major escalation of violence on the ground recently as the F1 Bahrain Grand Prix is drawing nearer.”

International media reports protests have been happening every day. Last week Human Rights Watch accused the Bahrain government of arresting over 20 people without warrants to prevent them from protesting during the race weekend.

Meanwhile the hacking group Anonymous, which took down the official Formula One website during last year’s Grand Prix, has threatened to cause further disruption again this year.

Asked if he thought the race would be a success Ecclestone replied “there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be”.

Fernando Alonso completes first test with United Autosports

Photo: United Autosports
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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.