And so it is with fresh optimism and renewed hope that the F1 band wagon rolls northwards from Australia and into the Middle East. Not everyone's favourite holiday destination at the moment which means it should be relatively cheap if you still want to pop out and take a look. Previously a British protectorate, Bahrain became an independent state in 1971 and a Kingdom in 2002. It's cultural routes stretch back thousands of years. One of the first regions of the Gulf to adopt the Islamic faith, during the 7th century, at one stage prior to this it was home to a group who worshipped a shark deity call Awal which for a time the country was also called. More recently if made headlines for the brutal crack down of an uprising as part of the Arab Spring. With neighbour Saudi Arabia sending tanks across the causeway that links the two countries in support of the the monarch and government. Bahrain unlike many of the other states in the region has an economy that is focused on banking and tourism therefore global relations are extremely important. The 2004 Bahrain Grand Prix was the first F1 race to be held in the Middle East and was deemed a huge success by the FIA. Shunted around the calendar over the next few years, the GP has had the pleasure of opening the series on a number of occasions. The 2011 race was cancelled due to the turmoil mentioned above and there was a great deal of pressure from a number of quarters for the 2012 race to follow suit. The cancellation in 2011 was not as a result of the fact that they made viewers sit through an extremely dull race using the much longer 'Endurance Track' layout in 2010. Since 2014 the race has been held under floodlight conditions in order to be broadcast at a more suitable time for European TV audiences. A happy hunting ground for want to be World Champions as 8 of the 11 winners have gone on to lift the title trophy, Fernando Alonso leads the pack with 3 wins. It will be interesting to see how the cars run here in a hotter climate. We still don't really know about the operating ranges and limits of the 2016 tyres and with the fact that the tyre rules allow for a far greater use of strategy than before, that level of 'unknown' has certainly added to the interest this year. There can be no doubt that the 2016 Mercedes is the car to beat but the big question is just how hard to beat will it be? Was Australia a true reflection given that the qualifying system was a mess and that Hamilton made a complete dog's breakfast of his race start? Ferrari will be kicking themselves for not being able to draw first blood when it seemed like a really strong result was on the cards. A must for the team should be getting both cars home and as high up the grid as possible. That pressure on Mercedes will surely see mistakes being made. Further down the grid, there are a lot of tidy looking cars out there this season which should add some real drama to the midfield battle. It was an encouraging start for Red Bull who, despite having a poor weekend with Kyvat, did show that the new TAG-NotRenault engine has improved since last year. Haas made a fantastic start to their campaign and life in F1 becoming one of the very few teams to have scored points on their début and, for the old school among us, actually score real points from back in the day when only the top six scored. That just goes to show that if you spend a full year getting yourself together before joining the grid you can reap the rewards (I'm looking at you Toyota !!). With the relative closeness of the midfield, you get the impression that the drivers will make the difference. Max '****ing' Verstappen, Carlos Sainz, Jo Palmer, Daniel Ricciardo etc etc, all of these guys are pushing hard. Of the established teams, McLaren have improved, there is no doubt about it but they must be relieved that Alonso's crash gave the team more positive headlines about the strength and design of the car then they would of received had he made it to the finish in one piece. Again it's going to be another long year but surely a more fruitful one. Williams on the other hand seem to be slipping right back into clutches of the midfield having threatened to make the Ferrari, Mercedes scrap a three way battle they now seem incapable of dragging the best out of the combination of their chassis, drivers and Mercedes engine. Finally, it looks like another long year ahead for Sauber and Manor but there was an encouraging start for Pascal Wehrlein who, despite losing out to his team mate in the farce of Qually, ran well enough in the race to suggest that a point or two may not be a remote prospect this season. Let's just hope that the season continues to unfold in a positive and exciting way.