FEBRUARY 23, 2011
End of season date for Bahrain?
Subject to the end of current unrest in Bahrain, it is possible that the cancelled F1 season-opener could be rescheduled to an end of season date close to that of the Abu Dhabi GP in November.
Bahrain is understood to have had an exclusivity agreement for the middle eastern region that was renegotiated to make way for the arrival of the Abu Dhabi race in 2009, part of which may well have been Bahrain's opening round status. The two races were given dates at opposite ends of the calendar to maximise exposure for each.
Mohammed ben Sulayem, the president of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE, however, says Abu Dhabi will co-operate if necessary. He told the local 'National' newspaper: "We are organisers of the Abu Dhabi race and we respect the FIA's judgement. Originally Abu Dhabi and Bahrain agreed to have a big separation on the calendar. However, this is an emergency and in an emergency we need to work together. What is crucial is that Bahrain get their priorities right and I believe they have done so. Stability is the most important factor but once it returns, then we will push to bring the race back, because we know they would do the same for us."
Bernie Ecclestone has said this week that FOM will not charge Bahrain its race fee, believed to be around $40m. The revenue shortfall, however, will no doubt mean that Ecclestone and CVC will be keen to get the race back on if at all possible.
Currently, The Abu Dhabi race is on November 13 with the season-closing Brazilian GP on November 27. A November 6 date for Bahrain would be a logistical challenge, coming just a week after the inaugural Indian GP in Delhi, and November 20 would mean three races on successive weekends at the end of the season, which could also prove difficult. The World Motor Sport Council is due to discuss the Bahrain situation next week.