As the title sponsor of this weekend’s Formula 1 Grand Prix Gulf Air is naturally everywhere you look here in Bahrain. It is “backing the race” big time as Bahrain works with all of its partners to build a business friendly city.
It was the vision of Bahrain’s Crown Prince to bring the Kingdom to a global audience back in 2004 when the first race was hosted.
Gulf Air signed the title sponsorship of the Grand Prix (for an undisclosed amount) for that race and last year extended the deal for another five years to 2013, says the airline’s CEO Bjorn Naf.
But sponsoring a Formula 1 team is not on the cards: “We’ve been approached by teams but it is way too expensive for us,” says Naf.
Bahrain is anyway strongly associated with the McLaren-Mercedes team through the Kingdom’s investment company Mumtalakat, which has a 30% stake in the McLaren Group. Mumtalakat also owns Gulf Air.
PIX RIGHT: Toyota mechanics prepare Jarno Trulli’s car on Saturday. Later in the afternoon he drove to pole position for the Grand Prix.
It is hard to measure the direct effect of sponsoring a Grand Prix for Gulf Air, but the global exposure is huge. “If we can ride with that industry [Formula 1] that certainly makes an impact,” says Naf.
Here’s a little spin-off seen below, with BBC’s Live TV coverage – seen with pundit and former driver David Coulthard – conveniently for the airline using one of its logos as its backdrop.
ABOVE: The pit lane here at the Sakhir circuit in Bahrain.
BELOW: Measuring the temperature of the track. It got to 53 degrees C at 1300 today!