Bahrain is hosting the 2018 Formula One Championship with as much fanfare this time around — all thanks to an extraordinary development. Authorities announced they had found a large quantity of shale oil and gas to the west of the country.

The field is near the Saudi border, and an area historically known for containing huge quantities of petroleum resources. The tight oil reserves discovered at Khalij Al Bahrain Basin are estimated at 80 billion barrels.

This is a sizeable amount by any international standards, as suggested by BP’s ‘Statistical Review of World Energy June 2017’. The report estimates Kuwait’s oil reserves at 100 billion barrels, or 9.3 per cent of the world’s total.

In addition, estimates of deep gas reserves are put in the region of 10 to 20 trillion cubic feet. The figure is close to Oman’s gas reserves.

If all goes well, production at the new energy fields should come on stream in a span of five years. But this requires employment of the latest technologies and foreign investments. By one account, production of oil from the new discovery could reach 200,000 barrels per day.

The discovery is a milestone for Bahrain, coming some 80 years since the first discovery. Not surprisingly, officials timed the announcement of this major economic development to coincide with Bahrain hosting the Formula One Championship.

With Malaysia no longer hosting the event for commercial reasons, Bahrain has emerged as the second place after Melbourne to host the race in the 2018 calendar, which it will do on April 8 at the Sakir circuit. (In 2006, Bahrain served as the racing season’s opener due to Commonwealth Games in Australia.) The 2018 calendar is exceptionally busy with 21 races, one more than in 2017 with the return of F1 Grosser Preis von Deutschland and that of the F1 Grand Prix de France. The eight-month championship ends at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi on November 25.

Eleven of the races will take place in Europe, five in Asia, four in the Americas and one in Australia. This translates into two races occurring in the Middle East & North Africa (Mena) region, both in the Gulf.

The race grants Bahrain — undoubtedly the smallest country in the GCC in terms of population, size, and economy — an exceptional global outreach and exposure. The country will get the attention of tens of millions of F1 fans around the world for three consecutive days.

The Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) has a capacity of 70,000 spectators, more than other any other sporting arena in the kingdom. The circuit is located to the south of the capital, Manama. The government invested heavily on developing road networks leading to the BIC, with the infrastructure serving motorists throughout the year.

What’s more, the area surrounding the circuit continues to grow, with hotels, new businesses and residential schemes.

Gulf Air, fully-owned by the government of Bahrain, has year-round advertising of the championship by virtue of being the main sponsor. Telecom firms are the other primary sponsors of the Grand Prix.

The event provides telcos a golden opportunity to market their latest products. Likewise, Bahrain-based financial institutions buy primary spots for their most valued clients.

The month is proving to be one of fortune for Bahrain, which hosted an F1 race for the first time in April 2004. And April of 2018 comes with the new advantages from the oil and gas discoveries.