The 2008 Formula 1 World Championship will kick off in Bahrain it has been announced, moving the season opener away from its traditional home in Melbourne, Australia.

Revealed by the Australian Grand Prix Corporation themselves, it was confirmed that the Albert Park circuit will see a sweep of changes regarding its organisation, one of which being that it will now host the second round of the championship.

Albert Park has hosted the first round of the championship since its inclusion on the calendar back in 1996, with exception to 2006 when it was moved to the third round as a result of the clashing Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.

On that occasion Bahrain got the nod to host the first round of the season and although it returned back to Australia for his year, 2008 will see the Middle Eastern circuit regain that status.

"Bahrain will stage the first race," a spokesman for the AGPC told Reuters.

In addition to the calendar move, the Australian Grand Prix will start later than usual in order to cater for European audiences, the race instead taking place at 15.30pm local time, equating to 5.30am European time.

Also, the hugely popular V8 Supercars, controversially dropped from the support package this year and largely attributed for a dip in audience numbers, will make a return to the schedule.

"Taking all factors into account, this is the best option for our event and the people who support it," AGPC chairman Ron Walker told Reuters. "Our investigations have convinced us that as things currently stand, the disadvantages outweigh the advantages.

"Instead, we have decided to run the F1 race later on Sunday, moving the start time from 2 p.m. to 3.30 p.m. We need to ensure all of our partners are comfortable with this and we're working through that process now.

"Going later will benefit fans at Albert Park who will enjoy an even bigger day of entertainment and people watching the race live in other parts of the world, especially Europe, where fans will be able to get up closer to breakfast time."

Although a generally popular venue for Formula 1 drivers and fans, the Australian Grand Prix has been reportedly under threat from Bernie Ecclestone in his attempts to improve flagging audience ratings and popularity in Australia. A night race, similar to what is likely to occur in Singapore, had been proposed, but the 2008 race will take place during the day.



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