Formula One bosses are exploring the possibility of starting the new season with consecutive races in Bahrain – meaning an unprecedented four of the last five races will have been staged on the same track.
Following the postponement of the Australian Grand Prix until November, Lewis Hamilton is due to begin his bid for an unprecedented eighth world championship in the Gulf Kingdom on March 28.
Imola is set to host the next round on April 18, but with continued doubts over where the third race will be staged, F1 is considering a second grand prix in Bahrain.
The Sakhir Circuit in Bahrain could host the first two rounds of the 2021 world championship
Lewis Hamilton won at Bahrain in 2020 with Mercedes and will hope to start his bid for a record eighth world championship at the same venue
It had been anticipated that Portugal’s Portimao circuit would be the venue for the third round on May 2, but the country has recently been added to the UK government’s “red list”, meaning those returning to England would be subjected to 10 days of hotel quarantine.
Six of the 10 teams are based in the UK and it is unclear if elite sport will be exempt from the government’s rules.
As such, Bahrain could host a second round on April 4 with the race in Imola potentially pushed back a week. However, it is understood Bahrain GP officials are yet to be formally approached by F1.
This would mean the Bahrain track will have hosted a total of four out of the last five races after the track staged two grands prix at the conclusion of last year’s Covid-disturbed campaign.
Abu Dhabi brought the curtain down on the season but now teams could be heading straight back to Bahrain for another fortnight when the new season starts.
The move could see Imola’s raced moved from the second to the third round to make room
FORMULA ONE CALENDAR 2021
Mar 28 Bahrain GP
Apr 18 Imola
May 2 TBC
May 9 Spanish GP
May 23 Monaco GP
Jun 6 Azerbaijan GP
Jun 13 Canadian GP
Jun 27 French GP
Jul 4 Austrian GP
Jul 18 British GP
Aug 1 Hungarian GP
Aug 29 Belgian GP
Sep 5 Dutch GP
Sep 12 Italian GP
Sep 26 Russian GP
Oct 3 Singapore GP
Oct 10 Japanese GP
Oct 24 United States GP
Oct 31 Mexican GP
Nov 7 Sao Paulo GP
Nov 21 Australian GP
Dec 5 Saudi Arabian GP
Dec 12 Abu Dhabi GP
The first Bahrain race will be remembered for Romain Grosjean’s dramatic escape from his fireball inferno, while George Russell was cruelly denied a maiden victory as Hamilton’s stand-in the following weekend on the track’s shortened outer loop.
If Bahrain does host an extra round it is expected that the outer loop would again be used.
Despite the problems posed by the coronavirus pandemic, F1 chiefs remain hopeful of completing a record-breaking 23-round season. Testing for the new campaign takes place in Bahrain in the second week of March.
Mercedes have revealed they will unveil their new car on March 2 although Hamilton’s future is yet to be determined. The seven-time world champion’s contract expired on the final day of December and discussions over an extension remain ongoing.