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Sir Jackie Stewart fears cancelling the under-threat Bahrain Grand Prix would lead to repercussions that could have a damaging effect on Formula 1.
Teams are set to discuss whether the race should be called off amid security concerns caused by civil unrest.
"I'd be disappointed if F1 allowed itself to be threatened in such a way," three-time world champion Stewart said.
"The repercussions of following any bully-boy tactics and not going could last for a long time."
F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone will meet the 12 teams in Shanghai on Friday to discuss whether the controversial event should go ahead.
It was cancelled last year following pro-democracy protests in the country.
Red Bull driver Mark Webber has already expressed some misgivings about the prospect of racing in Bahrain on 22 April.
Bahrain International Circuit chairman Zayed Al Zayani said on Tuesday that "scaremongering tactics" had helped create misconceptions about the current situation and insisted the Middle East island state was ready to host the race.
"I think this has been taken rather largely out of context," agreed Stewart, 72.
"It's negative for the sport in general to cancel an event. And where would it end then - the Olympics, the World Cup?
"Formula 1 is worth a lot of money to the country and is like any other sport, it can bring people together.
"When all the trouble was going on in Northern Ireland we still had rugby and football matches going on."