It has emerged that Bahrain is seeking a switch back to the season-opening slot on future Formula 1 calendars, a race which has traditionally been held in Australia since 1996. Only on two occasions has the season-opener been held at Bahrain, in 2006 and 2010, however Bahraini circuit officials would prefer the race to become the first each year.
Since Formula 1’s switch from the Adelaide Street Circuit to Melbourne’s Albert Park Street Circuit in 1996, the opening race weekend of the season has traditionally been held down under. Only twice has the Bahrain Grand Prix opened the season, back in 2006 and 2010. However, it has recently emerged that the Bahrain International Circuit Chairman, Zayed Alzayani, would prefer his circuit to hold the season-opener on a regular basis instead of its current slot of third or fourth in the calendar.
Such a proposition to F1 Supremo Bernie Ecclestone has many positives, with the possibility of winter testing taking place around the Bahrain International Circuit. Previously teams such as Ferrari and Toyota have tested in the Kingdom, and after the cold and dreary winter tests earlier in the year at Barcelona and Jerez, such a switch was rumored earlier in the year. This would benefit tyre supplier Pirelli, whose new tyre range failed to work properly in the bitter weather conditions.
“It’s a good start to the season, it gives us the chance to have the teams here longer, there is more anticipation, more unknowns, how the cars will react to the new tyres, the regulations, the drivers are just back into their rhythm,” explained Zayed Alzayani, as practice for this year’s Bahrain Grand Prix got underway. “But the decision is not entirely ours. We are talking about 2014 onwards but it’s a bit early to talk about the calendar for 2014. We’re open to suggestion.”
This proposition to Bernie Ecclestone and the sport’s governing body, the FIA, comes amid continued unrest within the Kingdom, especially towards the sports continued involvement in the country. However, both Mr. Ecclestone and the FIA have assured the media that the nation is safe and that this year’s race will continue as scheduled. Bernie Ecclestone is open to such a proposal, however the question of logistics and expenditure for the teams to test during the winter and then return to Europe is still a debatable topic within the paddock.
“We could do, I suppose,” said Bernie Ecclestone to Reuters, when asked whether Bahrain could permanently hold the season opener. “We need to have a look at it. The only problem we have – not us, but the teams – is the cost of the logistics in coming here and going back to Europe. That is one of the advantages of having the first race, in that they can come to the last test and then leave most of their equipment here until race weekend. This was the plan in 2011. We were supposed to have the test at the end of February, and then the race on March 13. So if we go after the first race, then we will go after a test as well but again that is not our decision.”
Although Bernie Ecclestone compiles the calendar each season, the various teams decide where they carry out their winter preparations. Usually the teams unanimously agree on several venues, however varying opinions can lead to some teams testing elsewhere. This was evident last season with the Young Drivers Test, when Williams, Marussia and HRT tested at Silverstone in July, Force India, Ferrari and Mercedes tested at Magny-Cours in September and the traditional test for the remainder of the grid at Abu Dhabi in November.
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