Paddock Postcard from Bahrain 04 Apr 2004
It is royalty rather than celebrities that have been the feature of the Bahrain paddock this weekend.
Crown prince HRH Shaikh Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa has naturally been a very keen spectator, together with Bernie Ecclestone who first mooted the idea of a Bahrain Grand Prix. They have been joined by King Abdullah of Jordan, King Juan Carlos of Spain, HRH Prince Andrew the Duke of York and Prince Albert of Monaco. Prince Maktoum Hasha Maktoum Al Maktoum from Dubai, the Sultan of Brunei and Prince Hans-Adam of Lichtenstein are also here.
In the celebrity stakes, Star Wars producer George Lucas, a car buff, made a visit, together with Volkswagen chief Bernd Pietschesreider, and incoming and outgoing Mercedes-Benz heads Dr Wolfgang Bernhard and Jurgen Hubbert. On their behalf both Jean Alesi and Niki Lauda have done demonstration laps in the Mercedes-Benz W196 streamliner which won the French Grand Prix at Reims on its competition debut in 1954 in the hands of the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio.
Race drivers here this weekend include a busy Sir Jackie Stewart, who has been much in evidence on the social scene, fellow knight Sir Jack Brabham, Jacques Laffite, Marc Surer, Christian Danner, Allan McNish, Martin Brundle and Mark Blundell.
Former Ferrari sporting director Marco Picinnini, tipped in some quarters as a possible eventual successor to FIA president Max Mosley, also made an appearance.
The support races featured Formula BMW, establishing a beachhead in the Middle East. The first race saw Hong Kong Formula Three racer Marchy Lee take pole position and victory in Saturdays race, for Peter Thompsons Team Meritus. Indonesian Moreno Soeprapto, brother of that countrys Sental Circuit owner and named after Roberto Moreno, is on pole for todays race for Minardi Team Asia.
The Thoroughbred Grand Prix Championship has given enthusiastic spectators the chance to see some superb Formula One machinery of yesteryear, including the Williams FW08s of Joaquin Folch and Richard Eyre, the FW07s of Fredy Kumschick and Tony Smith, Hubertus Bahlsens Arrows A4, and John Delanes immaculate Tyrrell 001. Their race begins at 1100 local time this morning.