Bernie Ecclestone could now be looking at starting the season two weeks earlier than originally planned, sources have indicated – potentially leaving teams with a massive logistical headache as they prepare their new cars.
Ecclestone had been considering moving the Australian GP from the currently scheduled April 3 to March 27. However, that is the Easter weekend it, and it seems likely that the Melbourne organisers found it unacceptable given that many locals would be out of town – affecting both spectator numbers and staffing.
Ecclestone may have been left with no choice but to go back a further week to March 20. It’s understood that the race will be a standalone event, with nothing following on the Easter weekend. It remains to be seen what other events Ecclestone is shuffling around at that end of the season.
Sources indicate that he has not moved Malaysia back to the start of the year, as the organisers preferred a late season date. Instead it’s understood that he has split Singapore and Malaysia by a week, moving the latter event from September 25 to October 2 so that it becomes a back-to-back event with Japan.
Ecclestone has also been trying to create a three-week summer break, and it’s believed that he has also achieved that by moving European races around.
If March 20 is confirmed as the first race teams will have to do some serious reorganising. At the moment they all have carefully planned schedules of R&D, car build, crash testing and spare manufacturing with a view to a first test in Barcelona on March 1, followed by Friday practice in Australia some 31 days later.
It’s inevitable that the first and second tests will both have to be brought forward, and thus teams will have to adjust their schedules to be ready in time.
“It’s not ideal,” said one team insider. “Even at this stage we will have to make compromises to reach that deadline. Production times are the biggest challenge. We’re planning to build cars for the first tests then go to the first race the first weekend in April, so we’re scheduling production runs to have spares ready for that time. So we’ll probably go to Australia with fewer spares than we’d be hoping to have. A one-week gap after it will give us time to catch up.”