Bahrain may host first F1 race of 2014 season

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Martin Whitmarsh, Formula One Teams Association chairman and McLaren team principal. (Getty Images)

Martin Whitmarsh, Formula One Teams Association chairman and McLaren team principal. (Getty Images)

Bahrain is likely to host the first Formula One race next year as early as March 2, a senior figure told The Telegraph.

Teams are reportedly keen to start testing their cars in mid-January and hold a test race in a warm location before the season starts.

Formula One Teams Association chairman and McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said it was logical to then hold the first race in the Middle East because teams already would be there testing.

The idea had widespread support, he said.

“The manufacturers and the teams want to start testing a little earlier,” Whitmarsh said. “The idea of having a test in mid-January, probably in Jerez, logistically is straightforward.

“Then having a gap by which you can respond to the issues and then testing in some warm weather in the Middle East seems to be attractive to the teams.

“And if you’re there, starting the season there seems a pretty sensible approach. So I think most people have agreed it and I suspect it’s going to be confirmed.”

Bahrain’s Crown Prince was in Montreal on the weekend ahead of that city’s race, according to the Telegraph.

The Bahrain event has been controversial since civil unrest broke out in 2011.

The event was cancelled that year but has gone ahead in 2012 and 2013 despite protests from international human rights groups who claim the kingdom is responsible for a violent suppression of democracy fighters.

The year 2014 is set to be the longest racing calendar in the event’s history, with a record 21 grands prix if New Jersey and Russia win their bids to host a race and none of the other scheduled races drop off.

The season opener would be brought forward to March 2.

Abu Dhabi is the second Middle East F1 host. Its race usually is one of the last, held in early November.

However, Whitmarsh said he was not confident that 21 races could be accommodated.

“I don’t know whether there really will be 21 races,” he said.

“I’ve heard the stories of a variety of new venues, from Russia and talk of New Jersey again and those sorts of things. Whether all the other dates on the calendar survive I don’t know but 21 races is a lot that is for sure.

“This year we have 19, we did 20 last year. I know it’s only one more but we have been saying that since we were at about 14 races and most of those were in Europe. It gets quite tough for the teams.”

The schedule will be confirmed by the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council, which is due to meet on June 28.

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