As I watched German Formula One racing driver Sebastian Vettel claim his sensational victory in a drama-filled Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) I could not help but think of the fraction of a second that makes all the difference between joy and despair, excitement and agony, victory and loss.

The mind-blowing night race was a 57- lap sprint on a circuit with a length of 5.412 km, which Vettel finished in 1 hour 32 minutes and 01.940 seconds. I must admit I do not follow Formula One (or any sport for that matter except cricket).

But watching the grand spectacle, considered the most prestigious motor racing competition in the world, for three consecutive days, and that too from one of the most vantage points, left me breathless with excitemen,t like the thousands watching it live and millions on their TV sets or their smart-phones.

Soon after Vettel’s momentous win and his taking the chequered flag, brilliant display of fireworks lit up the desert sky for quite some time. It was a race alright but I had never imagined that the cartoon-like cars with monstrously powerful engines could race at a terminal velocity of around 170 miles per hour.

That was simply mind-blowing. Someone described the speed as “gut-wrenchingly thrilling” and “stomach-churningly frightening”, which I guess were just the right descriptions of the race. The gruelling test of strength and agility of both man and machines led me to learn more about the history of the sport in this island country.

 

Formula One, Sebastian Vettel, Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix, Bahrain International Circuit

 

Racing heritage

Bahrain means “two seas” in Arabic. The island is the third-smallest nation in Asia after the Maldives and Singapore. The Arab world’s Grand Prix heritage goes back to the sport’s earliest years but Bahrain became the first Arabian country to have held a Grand Prix in modern Formula One history.

Bahrain brought F1 to the Middle East in 2004, fighting a fierce competition in the region with Egypt, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates ~ all hoping for the prestige of hosting a Formula One Grand Prix. This year was the 14th time that the excitement and passion of the most cashinfused sport in the world arrived in the Arabian Gulf.

To mark a decade of the first staging of the Bahrain Grand Prix, in 2014, the race was held as a night event under floodlights. Singapore Grand Prix had done so for the first time in 2008. Bahrain’s inaugural night event was won by Lewis Hamilton, who finished third this year.

Off-track

I found that Formula One is not only a sport where racers excite millions of their fans with their driving skills and fastest and most advanced cars but off-track events also entertain thousands who visit the circuit during the three-day weekend.

I firmly believe that any sport has to combine itself with entertainment as well or else, in today’s commercial world, nothing will sell. Watching ten-time Grammy winner and my all-time favourite Carlos Santana performing live was thrilling to the core. Soon after the start of the show, I wondered whether he would play his most popular and signature solo number, “Black magic woman”. But he did to an already sold-out audience.

At 70, Santana remains one of the most aggressive guitar players in the business and he reminds one he’s still got it as he tears through a solo or slows things down with piercing, pure notes. A legendary voice of world music, I have always found Santana’s music simply divine as it touches the soul.

No wonder he had aptly named this tour “Divination Tour”, hoardings of which were displayed throughout the Kingdom of Bahrain. In 2017, Grammy-nominated electronic dance superstar Steve Aoki had enthralled the audience at BIC.

Several international music superstars have performed during the post-race concerts at different Formula One circuits. An array of offtrack activities was also in place, aiming to delight the young and old alike in the Formula One zone. Extreme rides, such as reverse bungee, free fall and sky roaster were thrilling the dare-devils with a surge of pure adrenalin.

Circuit tour

From the Grand Stand VIP Lounge, where I had reserved my seat, the view of the iconic Sakhir Tower was crisp and clear. In fact, those who had bought the three-day ticket, were offered a circuit tour, in which a visit to the Sakhir Tower was included.

The tower is the most recognisable feature that one identifies with Bahrain International Circuit, known as “The Home of Motorsport in the Middle East” due to its distinct shape and unique features. The eighth floor, which is also the top floor, offers an amazing 360-degree view of the entire circuit as well as the surrounding Sakhir area, which is a desert.

Besides offering a desert camping experience Sakhir is known for a 400-year-old mesquite tree, which is a popular attraction. Nobody knows where it gets its water from.

After being at the prestigious Bahrain International Circuit for three consecutive days, watching the action packed event from as close as can possibly be and for having been entertained with my favourite and the best, I could readily say I am already planning to be where the greatest racing spectacle on Earth will take place next ~ Azerbaijan.