Race organisers are reluctant to shift the start time for the 2015 Australian grand prix. In response to Jules Bianchi’s horror crash at Suzuka, the governing FIA vowed to look into ensuring that races are no longer started too close to dusk. Races at the season opener Melbourne, for instance, are traditionally now started at 5pm local, creating a better morning television timeslot for the bulk European audience.
The local Herald Sun newspaper claims race organisers have now received a request to reverse the scheduled start time by several hours. But race chief Andrew Westacott insisted: “The race time will remain at 5pm as per agreement with the Australian grand prix corporation and formula one management, which means Melbourne, as the opening race of the season, airs in Asia at lunchtime and Europe at breakfast.” Last year, the state government agreed a five-year agreement to keep the grand prix at Albert Park until 2020.
Bahrain is blocking Qatar’s plans to join the F1 calendar. F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone said last month that despite negotiating with a keen Qatari group, a race in the oil-rich Arab state is actually unlikely. That is because he made one of his famous “handshake deals” with Bahrain’s crown prince years ago not to install any new races in the Persian Gulf.
“I put the people together and said ‘Can you sort this out between you?’. They haven’t managed to do it,” said Ecclestone. Since then, Qatar has stepped up its F1 bid, securing the backing of the Emir, hosting the FIA’s recent gala awards and now unveiling images of a proposed new street circuit in Lusail. Despite agreeing to the spectacular floodlit Abu Dhabi grand prix, however, Bahrain is refusing to budge in similarly allowing Qatar on the calendar.
“My personal opinion of having another race – wherever it is – I don’t think we are ready for that,” Bahrain circuit chief Sheikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa is quoted by British newspapers.