Paddock postcard from Sakhir 03 Apr 2005
Bahrain really has embraced Formula One racing this year, with initiatives led by the Bahrain International Circuit.
The enthusiasm for the sport was evidenced at the circuit and on all the major roads leading to it by the display of national flags from all around the globe, manufactured in the English city of Leeds by Northern Flags.
His Majesty King Hamad was in attendance together with Saudi Eastern Province Governor Prince Mohammed bin Fahad bin Abdulaziz and Crown Prince and Supreme Council for Youth and Sport President Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa. They toured the paddock and garages and were received by several team owners. Later on Saturday His Majesty departed for an official visit to Egypt.
Children under 15 are allowed in for half price; giant television screens and BIC TV and radio have been keeping spectators fully informed of developments all through the day; there have been driver autograph of photograph sessions; Englishman Russ Swift has been entertaining fans with his Mini Cooper stunt driving display; there are opportunities for a birds eye view of the Sakhir circuit via a tethered hot air balloon; there was a fireworks display, a paddock show of coloured lasers and a family fun and games park. On Thursday spectators could also take advantage of bus rides around the circuit itself.
Elsewhere on the social side, Edinburgh-based DJ Stuart Duncan was flown in specially to perform at Likwid in the City Centre Hotel, where the official pre-race party was staged by one of the leading teams.
On track the support races include the Porsche Michelin Supercup imported from Europe, Formula BMW Asia and a Mini Cooper charity race, together with a Gulf Air-organised air display later today. Saturdays BMW encounter was won by polesitter Salman Al Khalifa after a tough fight with Australian Michael Patrizi. The local hero also clinched the Asian title with his success.
Perhaps the greatest attraction for those who experienced it was the magic performed by Thimon von Berlepsch, whose sleight of hand defied logical perception during the four-day Formula One Carnival at the Ritz-Carlton Bahrain Hotel and Spa.