Bernie Ecclestone
Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone (Reuters)

Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone has pledged to go ahead with the Bahrain Grand Prix despite widespread protests gripping the country. He dubbed protesters the anniversary demonstrations "a lot of kids".

Ecclestone said the race, due in April, would not be cancelled unless Bahrain authorities decided to.

"I expected there was going to be a big uprising with the anniversary," he told the Guardian. "But what happened was that there were a lot of kids having a go at the police. I don't think it's anything serious at all.

"It doesn't change our position in any shape or form. If the people in Bahrain [the government] say, 'Look Bernie, it wouldn't be good for you to come over here,' then I would think again. That is what they said last year."

Bahrain's race at Sakhir circuit in 2011 was postponed in March after political unrest broke out and Bahrain was eventually dropped altogether from the 2011 calendar.

Bahrain reportedly paid around £25m in hosting fees for last year's scrapped three-day event, after refusing an offer of a refund from F1's Jersey-based parent company, Delta Topco, Arabian Business reports.

Human rights groups asked for the cancellation of the race on the one year anniversary of the uprising Monday. "We don't want to see Formula One to come to Bahrain," Nabeel Rajab, vice president for the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights told Arabian Business in January.

"It's better for them, it's better for the Bahrainis and it's better for human rights if they don't come this year to Bahrain."

Last year's uprising was marked by the regime's use of excessive force against the protesters, which was confirmed by a report published by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry.

As protests began, activists took to Twitter to report human rights abuses and arrests conducted by the regime's forces.

Despite a brutal crackdown in February and March 2011, protests are still taking place, with opposition groups demanding more political reforms and an elected government.

In the days ahead of the anniversary tensions between protesters and the security forces increased, with groups of youths throwing petrol bombs at the police.

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