McLaren's Martin Whitmarsh expects Bahrain to open 2014 season on back of winter test
But FOTA chief unsure if next season will swell to 21 races after all
By James Galloway and Mike Wise in Montreal. Last Updated: 09/06/13 7:54pm
McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh expects "sensible" plans to open the 2014 season in Bahrain on the back of a pre-season test in the Middle East will be rubber-stamped - although suspects that the calendar may not quite expand to a record 21 races next year.
Following speculation since the start of the season that Bahrain was in line to regain the honour of hosting the opening grand prix on the back of an expected rejig of the pre-season testing schedule, Sky Sports F1's Ted Kravitz reported in Montreal on Saturday that the desert venue was now indeed duly expected to take over from Australia as the season-opening event for 2014 with a provisional race date as early as March 2nd pencilled in.
The moving of Bahrain from the fourth to the first round is expected to follow on from a revised testing schedule to take into account the work needed on the all-new turbo engines and energy recovery systems for 2014, with the opening test of three moved forward to January and the final one at Bahrain's Sakhir circuit to ensure warm weather.
And Whitmarsh, who also serves as the Chairman of FOTA, believes the proposed new-look opening 2014 schedule will work well for all the teams.
"I think you know that the manufacturers and the teams want to start testing a little bit earlier," he told reporters in Montreal.
"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."
Irrespective of the order of 2014 races, two new major venues were already scheduled to join the F1 roster next year - Russia and New Jersey - which raises the spectre of a record-breaking 21-race calendar if none of this year's grands prix are dropped.
Last season was the first time that the F1 calendar had included 20 events and Whitmarsh, who isn't certain that record will be beaten in 2014 in any case, believes the sport nevertheless has to be careful about always trying to add 'just one more'.
"I don't know whether there really will be 21 [races]," the McLaren Team Principal added.
"I've heard the stories of a variety of new venues, from Russia and talk of New Jersey again and those sorts of things. They're both important territories aren't they, whether all the other dates on the calendar survive I don't know, but 21's a lot of races that's for sure.
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"This year 19, we did 20 last year. I know it's only one more but we've been saying that since we were at about 14 races and most were those were in Europe. It gets quite tough for the teams."
The onset of new venues is unlikely to stop despite the addition of Russia and New Jersey, however, with returns to Argentina - whose representatives are believed to be in attendance at the Canadian GP - and Mexico already mooted.
The latter country now has two drivers on the grid and the leading one, McLaren's Sergio Perez, is hopeful mounting support for a first race there since 1992 will soon come to fruition.
"We can see a lot of enthusiastic people who really want to have a race in Mexico," Perez said.
"They're pushing for it so I hope soon we can have more races in America."