GULFWEEKLY: Exciting racing action was witnessed last weekend as the Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix became the fourth F1 event in just four months to be staged at the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC).
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton earned his 96th race win and fifth in Bahrain, barely managing to stay ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, blitzing across the finish line just 0.745 seconds ahead of the Dutchman who had dominated all weekend.
“The last four months have been an experience that I shall never forget,” said BIC chief executive Shaikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa.
“Global constraints of the pandemic, combined with the operational challenges of four F1 events in four months meant that, as a collective, Team Bahrain had to work smarter than ever before.
“Thinking differently and creatively, acting with more energy than ever, together with a relentless pursuit for excellence, enabled us to deliver the magic of F1.
“I am deeply proud of what we have been able to achieve.
“I pay a particular tribute to the team at BIC. I believe our mantra of ‘pride, passion and performance’ was never more visible than in the last few weeks.
“To the fans who came to BIC over the weekend and the many millions watching at home, we thank you for sharing our passion for the sport.”
A total of 4,500 Covid-vaccinated and Covid-recovered fans enjoyed the action at the BIC, as Mercedes’ hard-tyre strategy proved successful on the abrasive BIC track.
After the intense double-header last year, Bahrain welcomed F1 teams and personnel two weeks ago for pre-season testing, where Red Bull emerged as the fastest car on track. Bahrain-owned McLaren showed incredible promise with their new Mercedes engines.
“It definitely made it easier having both the testing and season-opener in Bahrain,” McLaren driver Lando Norris told GulfWeekly in an interview.
“It made setups much easier and of course, I personally like Bahrain’s weather more than Barcelona!
“The track here, as well, is a lot of fun, since it’s not completely flat and has a great balance of high and low-speed corners, giving cars a new challenge at every turn.
“It’s great to finally have fans, who make the grand prix all the more exciting.”
Although Norris and his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo were only able to manage fourth and seventh positions, respectively, their car and the team seem to have a new energy after emerging third in the Constructors’ championship last year.
Mercedes have their work cut out this year as Red Bulls charge for the title, while McLaren and Ferrari have shown the much-needed change in their pace to keep them on their toes.
As for Bahrain, this year’s season-opener is an almost sure-fire way to make a second appearance in the next season of the hit Netflix series Drive to Survive.
“We have witnessed yet another spectacle and I congratulate Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes on their amazing victory,” said Arif Rahimi, BIC chairman.
“It was a particular delight to be able to see our fans in the stands brimming with excitement throughout the race.
“Our thoughts now turn to the future, as we continue to improve on everything that we do. We are especially excited to start our solar energy project in the coming weeks, the first phase of which will provide enough energy to power our whole F1 race weekend. Our ambition is to have 100 per cent of our energy usage coming from solar. This is just a part of our plan to build a sustainable future.”