Shanghai, Bahrain may swop F1 dates

LONDON • Formula One is confident that China will have a race next season but the Grand Prix in Shanghai may end up swopping dates with Bahrain, according to commercial managing director Sean Bratches.

China is currently pencilled in as the second round of the season, subject to confirmation of a new contract, on April 8, with the race at Bahrain's Sakhir circuit the following weekend. The season is due to start in Australia on March 25.

But the current Shanghai race weekend coincides with China's Qingming three-day national holiday, also known as the Tomb Sweeping Festival, when families pay respects to their ancestors.

That could reduce the crowd and lessen the overall impact in a country that Formula One's new owners, Liberty Media, have identified as a key growth area.

"We're trying to take into account global events, local events, religious holidays and things to ensure that... we're maximising the opportunity for fans to attend the grands prix," Bratches said.

"We're talking to both of them (China and Bahrain) to that end and if we can reach a mutually agreed upon solution, which appears to be on track to happen, you'll probably see that."

Bratches was speaking at a Grand Prix Trust lunch at the Williams team's headquarters.

Next year's 21-race calendar is due to be approved on Dec 6. It features France, with a race for the first time in 10 years, and Germany after a year's absence.

There is also a triple header with grands prix in France, Austria and Britain taking place on successive weekends on June 24, July 1 and 8.

The aim of that, with five European races in six weeks, is to avoid a clash with the football World Cup final at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium on July 15.

Bratches expects China to also sign up for another stretch.

"We're incredibly optimistic (of) bringing that to fruition, just like we did with Singapore last week," he said.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 23, 2017, with the headline 'Shanghai, Bahrain may swop F1 dates'. Print Edition | Subscribe