Melbourne has all but confirmed news it has lost its status as the opening race on the formula one calendar. It emerged recently that F1's hugely controversial Bahrain grand prix is provisionally scheduled to kick off an unprecedentedly-long 21-race schedule in 2014.
Bahrain's race will be in early March, which is a couple of weeks earlier than Australia usually hosts the season opener, in the third week of the month. The Sunday Herald Sun newspaper reports that Bahrain next year will be held on March 2, followed by Melbourne two weeks later.
But Andrew Westacott, boss of the Australian grand prix corporation, said Melbourne is happy with the mid-March slot, due to the scheduling of other sports events in the city at that time. "Our preference is to retain the third weekend in March," he said, playing down fears crowd numbers might be affected by the race's altered status. "The grand prix ran on the first weekend in April (in 2006) and estimated attendance remained strong with crowds in excess of 300,000," Westacott insisted.
The 2014 calendar is expected to be confirmed by the FIA in August. On the face of it, an unprecedented 21 grands prix should be listed, due to the new races in Russia and New Jersey. But Speed Week claims teams may actually only end up travelling to a more comfortable 19 destinations, with the events in India and South Korea reportedly in doubt.
The report said Korea's current contract runs through 2016, but that the unpopular and poorly attended F1 host is losing the support of the local authorities. As for India, Speed Week said: "We are hearing that the 2013 race is financially backed, but not the 2014 one. "Indian sources suggest the (promoter) Jaypee Group is nearing bankruptcy." (GMM)
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