Bahrain has been forced to withdraw from hosting the opening round of the 2011 Formula 1 season as civil unrest continues to sweep the country.
Hundreds of protestors continue to occupy Pearl Square in the centre of the capital Manama demanding elections to end the rule of the despised Al Khalifa family.
The race had been expected to take place on March 13th, with F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone informed earlier of the cancellation.
Bahrain’s crown prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa has been battling to restore order in recent days, with a series of political prisoners released today in an attempt to mollify crowds.
Prince Salman said: “Although Bernie Ecclestone had graciously made clear a decision on the race was entirely Bahrain’s to make and was not yet required, we felt it was important for the country to focus on immediate issues of national interest and leave the hosting of Bahrain’s Formula 1 race to a later date.”
The season will now open with the Australian Grand Prix on March 27th.
Following the cancellation Ecclestone commented: “It is sad that Bahrain has had to withdraw from the race, we wish the whole nation well as they begin to heal their country.
“The hospitality and warmth of the people of Bahrain is a hallmark of the race there, as anyone who has been at a Bahrain Grand Prix will testify.
“We look forward to being back in Bahrain soon.”
No decision has been made on a new date for the rescheduling of the race.
Tourism in the Middle Eastern destination has also been hard hit in recent days.
The British Foreign Office has joined European counterparts in advising against “all but essential” travel to the region.
“We also advise British nationals currently in Bahrain to limit travel around the island to essential journeys only, and to monitor the media,” added a statement.
“If travelling within Bahrain, British nationals should maintain a high level of security awareness, particularly in public places and on major highways, and avoid large crowds and demonstrations.”
The airport, however, remains open.
Bahrain presently attracts roughly eight million visitors a year, with most coming from surrounding Arab states.
However, an increasing number visit from outside the region due to a growing awareness of the kingdom’s heritage.