What a complex, fascinating island it is. I think I was in the airport once, back when flying from London to Australia involved a couple of refueling hops. Now of course a conversation about F1 must include it too. Messing around with Google Maps it turns out the Bahrain land mass is almost a mirror image of the San Francisco Bay and delta.
Even before the discovery of oil Bahrain was rich and thriving with ocean traders and pearl divers, governed in some form since 700 BC. It has been controlled more or less by Al Khalifa family since 1790, ruling to this day under Islamic law, with a mix of British common law that is an important component in the liberalization of the island. Despite the massive petroleum wealth discovered in 1932, Bahrain today has a public debt at 75.3% of GDP, with half of the almost totally urban 1.2 million population below the poverty line and/or dependent on the government in some way. All this on an island the size of Durham County, North Carolina or Lake Mohave – 290 sq miles, with immense wealth and power at the top of the income distribution pyramid.
The Al Khalifa family carved a Hermann Tilke F1 track out of the desert, and owns half of the McLaren group. Sakhir circuit is built from gravel shipped to Bahrain from England, with adhesive sprayed on the sand to prevent it from blowing onto the track. I quickly found out the track is not included in F1 2011 for XBox 360 due to the uncertainty and eventually elimination of this race last year. The F1 2010 release has Bahrain, but in the “Endurance” configuration, not the “Grand Prix Circuit” used in F1 from 2004–2009, and from 2012 onwards. I saw an eBay listing for F1 2009 (not available for Xbox) and it was $234! UPDATE: 2012 FORMULA 1 GULF AIR BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX results