When it comes to Formula 1®, Bahrain will always hold a special place in my heart as it was the first location that I ever attended a Formula One race, way back in 2006. A lot of circuits have come and gone in that time, but this oasis in the desert remains – and what a location it is.
F1® Experiences kicked off our Bahrain Grand Prix weekend with the Drive The Track Tour on Thursday night. Under floodlights our guests were treated to a driver’s eye perspective, as our F1 Experiences Ambassadors talked through the lap, pointing out the various overtaking opportunities and hot spots to look out for during the race. One guest noted that the circuit looked "very flat on the television – not how it is in real life!"
We then had the opportunity to have photographs with the World Drivers Championship Trophy. This iconic piece of silverware is engraved with the signatures of the greats of Formula One, from Fangio to Clark, Senna to Schumacher and everyone in between. The private access into the pit lane was another highlight, with Sebastian Vettel making a surprise appearance and the Toro Rosso team letting our guests get up close and personal with the car of Brendon Hartley.
Friday saw some brilliant track action and was culminated by Insider Access to the F1 Paddock, which featured a visit to the McLaren garage. The team allowed fans to get closer to Formula 1 than ever before, showcasing Fernando Alonso’s steering wheel and taking the time to answer every question in intricate detail. If that wasn’t enough, the team from Pirelli allowed us into the Hot Laps garage to get up close and personal with some magnificent road machinery, then it was off to see Bernd Maylander in the Safety Car and finally, a trip to the podium – which featured a “shoey,” plenty of cheering and one or two leaps of joy.
To wrap up our Friday night, we made our way up to the Paddock Club and were treated to some fine food and drink whilst we anticipated our special guest for the night, Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team driver, Charles Leclerc. When he arrived, guests cheered him on his long walk to the stage and were treated to a great appearance, hearing all about his career to date, his hopes for the future and what is was like growing up in Monaco with the race cars whizzing by his bedroom window. Charles took his time to stop for autographs and pictures before bidding everyone good night. It was a pleasure to have him with us and we look forward to hosting him again soon.
Saturday saw qualifying and guests were treated to a standout performance by Sebastian Vettel to pole position for Sunday’s race. He was followed by his teammate Raikkonen in second with Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas in third. It was a qualifying session to forget for Hamilton, who qualified fourth – but with a gearbox penalty found himself starting eighth. Likewise, for Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who lost control of his RB14 coming out of Turn 3, wiped off the front of his car and ended qualifying in 15th position.
With excitement building for race day, there was a huge buzz around the Bahrain International Circuit as the cars pulled away on lights out. It was a rather average day for Red Bull fans, with Verstappen and Ricciardo both out by lap five but it was Hamilton who proved to be the one to watch, carving up the field to – at one stage – lead the race. Similarly, Pierre Gasly was an absolute joy to watch on track, driving a solid, steady race to bring home the Honda powered Toro Rosso in fourth. By the time the flag fell, it was fireworks and celebrations for Sebastian Vettel, who took his second win in a row, followed home by Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton in third.
It was a pleasure to be a part of the F1 Experiences Bahrain Grand Prix and as we bid the circuit farewell for another year, focus moves onto round three. Next up, we’re heading to China to roll out more incredible experiences for our guests…
Will you be joining us?