LONDON, April 5, 2012 (AFP) - Former world champion Damon Hill on Thursday demanded a rethink over the contentious Bahrain Grand Prix which is due to take place in two weeks despite ongoing anti-government protests in the troubled Gulf state.
Hill was part of a fact-finding mission to Bahrain, which also included FIA chief Jean Todt, earlier this year and expressed his support for a return of
the race which had been cancelled in 2011.
But a violent crackdown on demonstrations has continued, prompting Shiite activists to demand the race be scrapped.
"What we must put above all else is what will be the penalty in terms of human cost if the race goes ahead?" Hill told The Guardian.
"It would be a bad state of affairs, and bad for Formula One, to be seen to be enforcing martial law in order to hold the race. That is not what this sport should be about. Looking at it today you'd have to say that the race could be creating more problems than it's solving."
Hill said he is not arguing for the race to cancelled again, but insists the FIA must review the situation.
"I hope the FIA are considering the implications of this fully and that events in Bahrain are not seen as they are often sold, as a bunch of yobs throwing Molotov cocktails, because that's a gross simplification," Hill said.
"If they believe that, they ought be more wary. You don't get 100,000 people risking their lives in protest for nothing. If we go, we all go, but there is obviously still a great deal of pain, anger and tension in Bahrain.
"It would be better for F1 to make it clear it properly understands this, and that it wants only the best for all Bahrain, or whatever country it visits. I think F1 is sailing very close to this limit.
"But there is an even more troubling thought, which is this: is F1 playing brinkmanship for purely financial reasons while people are putting their lives
in peril to protest against this event?"
The Bahrain Grand Prix was cancelled in 2011 due to the unrest that gripped the Shiite-majority state after a mid-March crackdown on protests demanding
democratic reforms that would challenge the power of the Sunni Al-Khalifa ruling dynasty.
Formula One ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone has insisted that the outbreak of fresh violence will not affect this year's race. According to an independent probe, 35 people were killed in the unrest between mid-February and mid-March 2011.