9 June 2013
Bahrain to open longest ever F1 season?
The F1 off-season could be compressed to just a matter of weeks by the addition of extra races and pre-season testing ahead of the 2014 campaign.
Not only could the 2014 F1 season be the longest on record, but the break between the current campaign and embarking on next year could be among the shortest ever too.
With both Russia and the second US race both scheduled for addition to the calendar next season, the number of rounds would swell to 21 – providing that none of the existing events asks to be excused – while the introduction of a new engine formula for 2014 looks set to bring not only extra test sessions, but also an earlier start to proceedings, with pre-season launches potentially taking place around Christmas and New Year.
There is talk of a fourth pre-season test being added to the schedule, pushing the opening session into late January and potentially taking the teams to a warm-weather destination for their final preparations ahead of the opening race. Talk in the Montreal paddock – bolstered by representatives from Sakhir – is that Bahrain will indeed replace Australia as the curtain-raiser, with the final test taking place at the same venue in order to make logistical planning easier.
The final calendar has yet to be fully approved by the World Motor Sport Council, and probably won't be until the end of the year, but the addition of Sochi and New Jersey are expected to take the number of stops to a record-breaking 21 provided both venues are finished and approved by the FIA. Bahrain is firm favourite to open the season, possibly on the first weekend of March, rather than the second or third, while it remains to be seen whether Malaysia holds on to round two as a stopping off point on the way to Melbourne. The last time Australia lost the opening round, due to a clash with the World Swimming Championships, it slotted in as the third event.
New Jersey, which is reportedly making good progress following the recent additions to its management team, is expected to form a double-header with Canada, while Sochi should drop in later in the season, once the site has been turned from a Winter Olympic venue into a racetrack.
"We are hearing the start of next season will be the Bahrain GP, not the Australian GP," Sky Sports Ted Kravitz has confirmed, "And that will be after we have the final pre-season test in Bahrain as well to get the hot conditions that next year's engines will need.
"We are hearing that the Bahrain GP might have a provisional date of March 2, which is at least a week earlier than we are used to.
"It also looks as if the first test next year will be brought forward to January. Obviously we have an expanded season next year of what we think will be 21 races with the Russian GP in Sochi and the New Jersey GP, so it is logical that next year's calendar is going to expand.”
Teams are also currently negotiating the return of in-season testing, with potentially as many as nine days available for development purposes, making for a very busy – and expensive - year.
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