SEPTEMBER 21, 2002
Why there will be a race in Bahrain
The logic behind the deal is very simple. Bahrain is a tiny country compared to neighboring Saudi Arabia and it has never enjoyed the same kind of oil reserves as other states in the Persian Gulf region. Faced with the knowledge that the oil revenues will decline, Bahrain is embarking on a revamping of its image and is bidding to become two things: the financial capital of the Middle East - a sort of Hong Kong of the Arab world - and at the same time a major tourist destination for the high-end European market. At the moment Bahrain's tourist trade comes almost exclusively from across the causeway from Saudi Arabia and it is based on the premise that many things which are banned in Saudi Arabia are legal in Bahrain.
Formula 1 fits the bill for Bahrain because it is aimed at the tourist market which Bahrain hopes to attract, while at the same time giving the kingdom global exposure to alter its image.
The other important point is that Formula 1 teams have long been looking for a warm weather winter testing venue which is easy to get to. Bahrain fits the bill and the track authorities are particularly keen to develop this aspect of the business.