F1 returns to Bahrain

Despite continued civil unrest in Bahrain, this weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix will go ahead as planned.

Last year's Bahrain GP had been scheduled as the Formula One season-opener, but anti-government demonstrations in that Middle Eastern country forced race organizers to cancel the event. F1's governing body, the FIA, reinstated the race to its 2011 calendar in June, but later that month, organizers withdrew its rescheduled October 30 date due to concerns raised by various parties, mainly F1 teams.

There are still concerns from teams heading to the Gulf state. However, the FIA announced last Friday the Bahrain GP will go on as scheduled.

The FIA noted in its statement that, "[FIA] president Jean Todt led a fact- finding mission to the Kingdom in November 2011, meeting a large number of decision-makers and opinion formers, including elected Shia members of parliament, the president of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, ambassadors from the European Union countries, the Crown Prince, the Interior Minister and many members of the business community.

"All expressed their wish for the Grand Prix to go ahead in 2012, and since then, the FIA has kept in close touch with all these stakeholders. Away from the public eye, the FIA has received regular security briefings from the most senior diplomatic officials based in the Kingdom as well as from other independent experts."

The Bahrain GP is round four on this year's schedule. Last Sunday, Nico Rosberg scored his maiden F1 win in the Chinese Grand Prix. Rosberg also gave Mercedes its first victory since 1955 when Juan Manuel Fangio took the checkered flag for the Italian Grand Prix.

"I had a great race [Sunday], but that doesn't mean it's going to be like that at every race," said Rosberg, who also won his first F1 pole in China. "We still need to push hard and continue progressing. Bahrain could be a little bit of a different story again. We need to wait and see. It's difficult to predict."

Rosberg made his F1 debut in the 2006 Bahrain GP, driving for Williams at the time.

"I have really good memories of the Bahrain circuit," the 26-year-old German said. "I won the Formula Three Macau-Bahrain Cup, GP2 Championship and finished seventh on my F1 debut with the fastest lap of the race. I like the track a lot. It's quite low downforce with lots of big stops and some faster corners too."

Ferrari has won four of the first seven Bahrain GPs, including Fernando Alonso's victory in March 2010 when he made his debut with the Italian team.

"Both the Scuderia and I have a good record in Bahrain," Alonso said. "The team has four victories here, and I've got three, the last of which was also my debut race for the Prancing Horse. But the past counts for nothing in this sport, and this weekend will be all about damage limitation for us."

Alonso also won the Bahrain GP in consecutive years from 2005-06 when he drove for Renault.

After the first three grand prix this season, McLaren's Lewis Hamilton holds the lead in the world championship standings. Hamilton has accumulated 45 points so far, compared to 43 for his teammate, Jenson Button. Alonso has acquired 37, while Mark Webber from Red Bull is one marker behind Alonso. Webber's teammate, Sebastian Vettel, the two-time defending world champion, has 28 points.

Series: Formula One. Date: Sunday, April 22. Race: Bahrain Grand Prix. Site: Bahrain International Circuit. Track: 5.411 km (3.195 miles); 15-turn road course. Start Time: 8 a.m. (et). Laps: 57. Miles: 182.115 (308.238 km). Television: Speed.