Could Bahrain launch the 2014 Formula One season?

Amidst the increasing controversy the event is bringing, Paul Weaver reports for The Guardian on the possibility that Bahrain may launch the 2014 Formula One season:

Bernie Ecclestone is considering launching next year’s Formula Oneseason in Bahrain. As tension built here on Friday, with an estimated 10,000 pro-democracy demonstrators gathering at Budaiya Highway in the afternoon and more serious trouble expected overnight, Ecclestone’s stance could be seen as provocative.

Hosting nations pay a special premium for the extra status of holding the opening race and if the move does go ahead teams are likely to spend a further week testing in the Gulf state.

The Bahrain International Circuit’s chairman, Zayed R Alzayani, revealed on Friday that he wanted his track to start the 2014 schedule when he said: “It gives us the chance to have the teams here longer, there is more anticipation and more unknowns.”

When F1’s chief executive and commercial rights holder Ecclestone was asked about it he said: “I hear they [Bahrain] are quite keen. We need to have a good look at it. We could do, I suppose.”

The opening race was held here in 2006 because Melbourne did not want the event to clash with their hosting of the Commonwealth Games. It also staged the first race in 2010, when they paid $40m (£26m) for the honour, a big increase from their previous fee of $25m. The following year’s race was postponed following the deaths of a number of anti-government demonstrators.

If the change is made there are likely to be misgivings in the paddock. F1 personnel were distinctly nervous here last year and although they were more relaxed when they arrived at the track on Wednesday there was a subdued mood in the garages on Friday as the awareness grew that more trouble was on the way. There were burning tyres – and they weren’t the highly degradable Pirellis on the Formula One cars.

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