There is an imposing presence about the Mercedes team principal, Ross Brawn, and his long shadow will be seen in the paddock for years to come if Lewis Hamilton has any say in it.
Brawn is 58 and very wealthy. But it is the number of changes within the team in recent months – McLaren's technical director, Paddy Lowe, will be joining at the end of the year – that has led to speculation that Brawn will be quitting in the near future. Mercedes, however, are resurgent this year and Hamilton, who is fourth in the championship, gives much of the credit for that to Brawn, the man behind Michael Schumacher's seven world titles.
Hamilton, who looked relaxed despite the tensions in Bahrain and the threat of a huge pro-democracy demonstration for Friday, said: "Ross has shown time and time again in his career just how good he is and how competitive he is. He's shown even though he's been in the business a long time he still has that fighting spirit and stuck it out. He has stuck out all the hard times and is now seeing it come through in a positive way."
The reassuring figure of Brawn was one of the reasons why Hamilton switched from McLaren to Mercedes at the end of last season. This is a man who knows how to deliver championships and there are signs that he is at last turning things round, just as he did at Ferrari after a few years in charge.
Hamilton added: "He's great to work with. He's created a very relaxed environment, he's very easy to approach, he communicates really well and is very hands-on with the drivers and everyone. He sits in on all the meetings. He does a fantastic job.
"I signed with him being here and I'm very happy working with him we are building a great relationship. Inevitably at some stage he'll want to stop. Who knows when that'll be? I hope it's not too soon. I hope we get to have many victories together."
Brawn has said that Sunday's race will tell the team a lot more about the capabilities of the car and Hamilton added: "Not just here but Barcelona as well. Tyre degradation is going to be a killer here. So we'll definitely get a good understanding of where we stand."
The atmosphere in the paddock was more relaxed than it was a year ago. Although there are warnings that there will be more violence in surrounding areas in the next few days the teams – so jittery in 2012 – now feel safe. At least while they are at the track.
McLaren's Jenson Button said: "I hear different things on Twitter and you cannot get away from it, but for us as a team and me as an individual, I have to believe the FIA are making the right call. We have 19 races around the world and I trust their decision not to put us in danger and it is the right thing to do.
"I did not see anything last year. It is no different from 2004 in terms of what we see when we are here.
"But I am sure that what we see and what the Bahrainis see is two very different things. We see the hotel, we drive to the circuit and we see the circuit. That's it."
The crown prince was at the circuit, anxious to reassure the non-believers. "We still have problems, but let's not politicise the race. We have had a rough time with the press," Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa said. "Our main problems in Bahrain are centred around two clear issues: civil rights and law and order. Those two things can be in opposition to one another or they can go hand in hand. We need to make sure that we bring the diverse elements of the country together to achieve a synergy. That is the real challenge."
An ITN TV crew were held and questioned at a police station in Bahrain but later released. Meanwhile, Zayed R Alzayani, the chairman of the Bahrain International Circuit, has spoken out against non-peaceful demonstrators. He said: "I am totally against violence. No matter what cause you have you have no right to disrupt the normal process of life. That is not democracy, that is terrorism. There are no two ways about it."
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image: © David Wall