Bahrain pushing for season opening slot again
19 April 2013
Bahrain International Circuit chairman Zayed R Alzayani has confirmed he would like the track to act as the curtain-raiser again in 2014.
Bahrain has held that position in the past, back in 2006 and in 2010 and was also due to do so in 2011, but that race was initially postponed and then cancelled due to the unrest in the Gulf state.
Speaking to reporters ahead of this Sunday's race at the Sakhir circuit, Alzayani added that it is definitely something they want to discuss with F1 boss, Bernie Ecclestone.
“Personally, first race,” he told reporters, according to Sporting Life, when asked about his preferred position in the schedule. “It is good start to the season, it gives us the chance to have the teams here longer - there is more anticipation, more unknowns. You don't know how the cars will react to the new tyres, what the new regulations will do and the drivers are just back into their rhythm.
“But we are ready to have the race, whether we're first, second, third or fourth on the calendar, and there are pros and cons for each. 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, and whether it's the first race or fourth for us, we're ready. We'll come to that towards the end of the season when the calendar is being discussed and decided.
“There are some people who want the first race, and there are some people who don't want the first race. We'll see how it goes. It's really a discussion between ourselves and Bernie.”
Alzayani also added that in an ideal world, Bahrain would not only host the first race, but the final pre-season test too.
“It [a pre-season test] is on the table,” he continued. “The only problem we have - not us, but the teams - is the cost of the logistics in coming here and going back to Europe. But 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. It is the teams who decide where to test.”
Meanwhile, Ecclestone himself has said it is by no means out of the question for Bahrain to revert to acting as the season opener.
“We could do I suppose,” Ecclestone confirmed. “We changed because Australia has been around a long time and they wanted to maintain that. I hear they [Bahrain] are quite keen [to be first again]. We need to have a good look at it.”
Ecclestone also revealed that he was happy to offer an extended contract to the Bahrainis, who will be celebrating a decade in F1 next season.
The first Middle East country to open its doors to the grand prix crowd still has three years to run on its existing deal, but Ecclestone sees no reason to hold back, despite the political unrest that has blighted the past three visits.
"I feel they do a super job and we're more than happy to give them a new contract for five years," he insisted "I don't see any problems."
Reports also suggest that Bahrain could push for a night race to celebrate its tenth year, but securing a new deal would be the first priority.
"We're still contracted to 2016, but obviously we are willing to look beyond that," Alzayani said, "We've not started negotiations yet, but we are happy to look at it. The intentions are definitely there. We're committed to the sport, we are here for the long term, and we want to be known as the friendly race. Hopefully we can sign something this year."