Australia loses first F1 race to Bahrain
The Australian Grand Prix has lost its place as the first race on the Formula One calendar to Bahrain, organisers of the Albert Park event said on Monday.
The Australian Grand Prix Corporation (AGPC) announced that the March 16 event in Melbourne would be the second race on the 2008 calendar and would start 90 minutes later than usual, at 1530 local time, to cater for European television audiences.
"Bahrain will stage the first race," a spokesman for the AGPC told Reuters.
The dates and calendar order are subject to final confirmation from the FIA, Formula One's governing body.
"Taking all factors into account, this is the best option for our event and the people who support it," AGPC chairman Ron Walker said in a statement of the switch to second in the calendar.
He said the AGPC would not be pursuing the idea of hosting a night race, a plan first mooted in discussions between Walker and F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone when the two met during this year's Albert Park race in March.
Ecclestone is eager to rejuvenate flagging ratings in the sport's European stronghold with Singapore, which secured a five-year deal in May to host a race starting next year, the favoured venue to be the first to stage floodlit racing.
"Our investigations have convinced us that as things currently stand, the disadvantages outweigh the advantages," Walker said.
"Instead, we have decided to run the F1 race later on Sunday, moving the start time from 2 pm to 3.30 pm. We need to ensure all of our partners are comfortable with this and we're working through that process now."
"Going later will benefit fans at Albert Park who will enjoy an even bigger day of entertainment and people watching the race live in other parts of the world, especially Europe, where fans will be able to get up closer to breakfast time."
Walker said the new date would also allow domestically popular V8 Supercars races to return to the March 13-16 lineup after skipping the event last year.
The street circuit at Albert Park has hosted the first race of every Formula One Grand Prix season since 1996 except the 2006 event, which was put back to third in the calendar because the city was hosting the Commonwealth Games.