So we move to the Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain. It is a country of great beauty, of civilisation and diversity; but just what attracts F1 to this corner of the world, this archipelago with just over 1 million inhabitants? Well, of course, “oil, stupid!” I hear you cry, but no, there is more than just that; as an influential economic trade centre with huge investment in tourism there’s far more than just the black, smelly, slippery stuff to attract the attention of Bernie and The Circus. Before oil there was an historic background to interest the mightiest of classical brains; the years before the arrival of Islam were rich in culture as this conduit for trade and knowledge soaked up the influences of Egypt, Greece and the other “advanced” cultures of their times; on the arrival of Islam the intellectual and scientific knowledge flourished through years of political turmoil and threat from external sources, all contributing to the emergence of strong rulers and attracting continued interest from larger, more distant powers. Portugal, Britain, Egypt and Persia focused on manipulating the region for greater gain as the area became yet more strategically important – then came interest from Uncle Sam in the form of oil prospectors Standard Oil when up through the ground came a bubblin’ crude. While initially this caused a closeness with Britain (who invested then saw great returns through oil revenues) soon it was Iran who showed interest, and the Persian influence was revisited until Bahrain’s independence in 1971. Tension between the three bubbled for the next 30 years until Emir Al Khalifa (who then became King) rose as leader and began a series of reforms which gave freedoms and rights to many. Shi’ite Bahrainis have complained of prejudice, causing a fragile politics in Bahrain, culminating in the commencement of open protest during the Arab Spring. The human rights record of the current regime is under scrutiny frequently and it is this which has made this F1 event as divisive amongst fans as it is. “Systematic Torture” is used by security forces to threaten, frighten and secure information and the control of media causes a bias in information within the country. "Just what attracts F1 to this corner of the world?" F1 is, of course, attracted to Bahrain by money. What’s this got to do with us, though? Well, the first Bahrain GP was held in 2004, winning the title of “Best Organised Grand Prix” for that year and was won by Michael Schumacher. Yet it’s the years 2011 and 2012 which have caused most discussion due to the cancellation in ’11 and non-cancellation in ’12. Vettel’s Championship in ’11 would not have been altered had an additional GP been run, neither would his 2012 victory have been threatened had Bahrain been cancelled so why can political turmoil and human rights be a critical influence one year and not the next? Perhaps it doesn’t matter and the Formula 1 World Championship is all that matters, this is not the place for such a discussion but perhaps you’ll do me the favour of reading this: http://edition.cnn.com/2013/04/11/sport/motorsport/bahrain-grand-prix-arrests/ So where are we now? With a great display from 3 time Bahrain winner Alonso, a super early China performance from 2 time Bahrain winner Massa and great Lotus, Merc, Red Bull and McLaren performances on 14th April what’s going to be the view on a winner? All the top 4 teams appear to be able to get one strong finish which makes for a real tight picture so I’m not putting anybody’s cash on a punt! The stewards may be in with a busy time, too, as some of the skill levels we’ve seen have caused them so much work over the China weekend. We’ve seen chewing-gum tyres causing dull qualifying with split race strategies and an unusual grid; with high Bahraini track and air temperatures surely this will be the best test so far of aero, strategy and driver skill. I don’t think the circuit is too dissimilar to China but grip levels with the sand will be a challenge, my surprise is that we still have the same questions unanswered regarding the respective qualities of the teams. I hope you enjoy the race, despite it being my least favourite, and I look forward to your comments.