Bahrian's crown prince, Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, visited the track Friday and rejected any suggestion that the race should be scrapped.
"I think canceling the race just empowers extremists," he said. "For those of us trying to navigate a way out of this political problem, having the race allows us ... to celebrate our nation as an idea that is positive, not one that is divisive."
Clashes take place nearly every day with demonstrators hurling firebombs and riot police responding with tear gas and sometimes firing birdshot. The main Shiite political group, Al Wefaq, says at least 50 people have been injured in the past two days when security forces fired pellets to disperse protesters.
Additional security forces deployed this week, setting up checkpoints Friday on roads leading to the Bahrain International Circuit and increasing their presence across Manama.
The rulers have depicted the race — expected to draw a worldwide TV audience of about 100 million in 187 countries — as an event that will put the divided society on the path of reconciliation.
"I genuinely believe this race is a force for good, it unites many people from many different religious backgrounds, sects and ethnicities," said the crown prince.
In the past weeks, however, much of the protesters' anger has been directed at the crown prince, who is also the commander of the kingdom's armed forces, which the opposition supporters say have been enforcing the crackdown.
Last year, Salman was tasked to lead a national dialogue aimed at reconciliation between Shiite and Sunnis. The talks broke down without any compromise and have not yet resumed.
In Iraq, hard-line Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, denounced Bahrain for staging the grand prix while "blood is being shed" on the island. Al-Sadr also condemned the F1 teams for racing, saying their presence in Bahrain gives "support for injustices and the killings."
As a majority Shiite country, Iraq has backed Bahrain's Shiite-led protests.
Associated Press writers Brian Murphy in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Bushra Juhi in Baghdad contributed to this report.
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