The organisers of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix have admitted that it would be possible to reschedule the cancelled Bahrain round close to its season-ending date should the need arise.
The two races were originally granted slots at opposite ends of the F1 calendar due to their geographical proximity and the desire to give the UAE as much exposure for its two races as F1 attempted to build a strong foundation in the region, but the cancellation of the season-opener earlier this week could lead to Bahrain needing to be returned to the calendar later in the year.
Although F1 commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone knows that it would take a lot to restore the original 20-race schedule, not least the cessation of unrest in Bahrain and finding an agreeable slot in between the remaining rounds, Mohammed ben Sulayem, the president of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE, insists that Abu Dhabi would be willing to accommodate its neighbour if necessary.
"We are organisers of the Abu Dhabi race and we respect the [FIA's] judgement," ben Sulayem told the Gulf region's National
newspaper, "Finding time in the calendar is feasible. Originally, Abu Dhabi and Bahrain agreed to have a big separation on the calendar to make the most of the exposure that a grand prix brings. However, this is an emergency and in an emergency we need to work together."
Among the limited opportunities to return Bahrain to the calendar, making space at the end of the season would be preferable to upsetting the teams during the now-familiar summer break. With conditions in the Middle East more suitable heading into November and December, the logical solution would be to form a double-header with Abu Dhabi, even if it means a run of three races in as many weeks prior to the season finale in Brazil on 27 November.
"What is crucial is Bahrain get their priorities right and I believe they have done so," ben Sulayem, a vice-president at the World Motor Sport Council, confirmed, "Stability is the most important factor at this stage but, once it returns, then we will push to bring the race back, because we know they would do the same for us."
The WMSC will meet next week with the Bahrain situation apparently on the agenda, but the race cannot be reinstated until the motorsport authorities in the island kingdom formally request a return.
"If a request comes from Bahrain, the FOM has to find a place on the calendar and Bahrain have to agree to it," ben Sulayem explained, "Then the World Council will need to approve it."
The 2011 F1 season will now start in Melbourne, Australia over the weekend of 25-27 March.