Round four of the 2013 Formula One World Championship is the Bahrain Grand Prix, which takes place this weekend at Sakhir on the Gulf nation’s western coast.  

Despite ongoing political tensions in Bahrain, the race will go ahead as planned and will once again take place at the Bahrain International Circuit, the first F1-spec track to be built in the Middle East.

The Hermann Tilke-designed track stretches 3.3 miles and has a number of characteristics that present challenges for teams.

It’s a high braking circuit so brake wear is a major factor, it is tough on rear tires and it has a high ambient temperature. Grip is also very variable, due to sand that gets blown onto the surface from the surrounding desert.

Bahrain International Circuit’s layout is made up of four long straights, all of which funnel into heavy braking zones and clear overtaking places. An abrasive surface, made from granite imported from Wales, is also present, and has prompted Pirelli to bring its P Zero Orange hard and P Zero White medium tires, the two hardest this season.

Car setup is a compromise between straight-line speed and cornering grip, and with ambient temperatures expected to exceed 90 degrees F (32 degrees C) this weekend, teams will also need to be mindful of cooling.

After three races, the 2013 F1 season is now fully underway with battles being waged between five world champion drivers who also rounded out the top five at last weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix.

Going into Saturday’s qualifying and Sunday’s eventual race, reigning world champion, Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull Racing, leads the Drivers’ Championship points table with 52 points, followed by Lotus’ Kimi Räikkönen with 49 points and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso in third with 43 points.

In the Constructors’ Championship, Red Bull Racing remains in the lead with 78 points, followed by Ferrari with 73 points and Lotus with 60 points.

Stay tuned for our complete Bahrain GP coverage over the weekend, including a weather forecast tomorrow, qualifying report on Saturday and full results coverage on Monday.