Why the Bahrain F1 project team could teach Michael Schumacher a thing or two about acceleration
The deserts around Bahrain are about to get a lot noisier. This Sunday, motor-racing teams Ferrari, Williams and the rest are heading to the £80m Bahrain International Circuit to compete in the first Grand Prix to be held in the Middle East. It will be watched by 65,000 spectators, a media contingent of about 500 and a world television audience of millions.

But although the track at Sakhir is ready for the cream of world motor-racing talent, an eleventh hour hitch has threatened to stall the race.

The circuit was designed by the German architect Tilke and built by a joint venture between the Bahraini firm Cebarco and the Malaysian company WCT Engineering. They officially handed over the keys to the Bahrain International Circuit organisation on 5 March, but it later transpired that a few finishing touches had still to be applied.

Reluctant to run the race in such circumstances, circuit supervisor Philippe Gurdjian asked Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone just two weeks ago if the race could be postponed until next year. Unsurprisingly, Ecclestone sent him packing. "We just had to get more people in to get the job finished," said a chastened Gurdjian.

After 16 months of work, involving about 4700 workers and 8 million man hours, the circuit was officially driven for the first time last week by Ralf Schumacher – but not before workmen had stayed up the previous night laying kerbstones and painting, says Williams' technical director, Patrick Head. "They've done a remarkable job in the time but I should be careful where you put your hands in case you get them wet."

In the meantime, F1 fever is gripping the principality. Racing car skidmarks have been painted all over Bahrain airport and the 650,000 population is slavering in anticipation at the chance to see the likes of the Schumachers, Juan-Pablo Montoya and Jenson Button in action.

All that is now required is a special appearance from that doyen of F1 commentators, Murray Walker, who retired in 2001. In his immortal words: "… Only a few more laps to go and then the action will begin, unless this is the action – which it is."