The Chief Executive of Formula One Administration Mr Bernie Ecclestone today received the Bahrain Medal of the First Degree, one of the highest personal honours that can be bestowed by the Kingdom and one usually reserved for Heads of State and people who perform outstanding services and achievements to the Kingdom of Bahrain.
This was Mr Ecclestone's first visit to Bahrain and he was in the Kingdom for a three-day tour at the invitation of the Crown Prince His Highness Shaikh Salman. The presentation of his Medal followed a tour of the Bahrain International Circuit and a detailed briefing on preparations for the 2004 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix, the first Grand Prix to be held in the Middle East. Presentations were given by each of the ministries and national organisations involved in the logistical planning of the race at a meeting arranged by BIC Chairman His Excellency Shaikh Fawaz bin Mohammed Al Khalifa.
After visiting the circuit Mr Ecclestone commented; "It's super, Bahrain International Circuit will be one of the best in the World. The standard is so high its raised the bar so much. I'm very impressed and I'm very happy with it."
When asked what the Bahraini audience can expect of the Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix Mr Ecclestone replied; "It will be a great event. If I wasn't directly involved in Formula One myself I'd be buying a ticket before they sell out!"
At the invitation of the Crown Prince, Mr Ecclestone attended a lunch held at a desert camp hosted by the Kingdom's southern district governor His Highness Shaikh Abdulla bin Hamad Al Khalifa. Following the lunch Mr Ecclestone was treated to a falconry display.
Before leaving the Kingdom Mr Ecclestone met with His Highness the Prime Minister Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa.
The Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix, which has a long-term agreement to host a round of the FIA Formula One World Championship, will be the third round of the 2004 championship and will be contested on April 4.
Mr Ecclestone is the latest guest from the world of Formula One to visit Bahrain during 2003. The Kingdom has played host to numerous personalities and officials including BMW WilliamsF1 driver Ralf Schumacher, BAR Honda team principal Dave Richards and driver Jenson Button, former F1 driver Jean Alesi and Charlie Whiting, the FIA's safety delegate, race director and official starter. Numerous logistics managers from F1 teams including Ferrari have also visited to make their preparations for this flyaway race.
The President of the FIA Max Mosley and HRH the Duke of York were in Bahrain for the BIC groundbreaking ceremony on October 8 2002. Bahrain's 5.410km track is the latest addition to the world's Grand Prix circuits and is scheduled for completion on March 8 2004.