BUDAPEST // On a day when Bernie Ecclestone's wheeler-dealing was once again in the Formula One spotlight, the sport's commercial rights owner has proposed a 2012 calendar that puts the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix back-to-back with Bahrain.
Following a meeting in June, the FIA, the governing body for global motorsports, published a provisional 21-race calendar for 2012.
However, Ecclestone has this week recommended an overhauled schedule and circulated it among the 12 race teams to garner feedback.
His proposal sees the Turkish Grand Prix removed after Jean Todt, the president of the FIA, said 20 races should be the maximum number of events in one season.
Graeme Lowdon, the technical director of Virgin Racing said yesterday that "for a small team like us, 21 races would definitely have been too many".
The new calendar would see the season start in Melbourne on March 18, rather than Bahrain, which had been proposed.
The Bahrain race now looks set to be shifted towards the end of the season, where it will take place on November 4, seven days after the fourth Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on October 28.
Yas Marina officials were unavailable for comment yesterday, but Mohammed ben Sulayem, the president of the UAE Automobile and Touring Club and vice-president of the FIA, told The National at the height of the Bahrain unrest earlier this year that Abu Dhabi was willing to be paired with Bahrain for the benefit of its Gulf neighbour.
"Originally, Abu Dhabi and Bahrain agreed to have a big separation on the calendar to make the most of the exposure that a grand prix brings," Ben Sulayem said.
"However, this is an emergency and in an emergency we need to work together."
Ecclestone met with the teams yesterday on the sidelines of the Hungarian Grand Prix, which together with Germany combines to create one of four back-to-back pairings this season.
Next year, under the new proposal, the season would see an unprecedented six double-headers.
With concerns regarding hosting Austin's first United States Grand Prix in June, when the summer weather can be unforgiving, it will now move to the closing stages of the season, where it will act as the penultimate race before the Brazilian Grand Prix takes place at Interlagos the following week on November 25. Malaysia will return to being a back-to-back race with Australia rather than with China, as it was this year, and Germany-Hungary, Belgium-Italy and Japan-Korea will also remain paired.
The Indian Grand Prix, which is due to host its inaugural race in Greater Noida, near Delhi, in the state of Uttar Pradesh, later this year, will be moved to April, where it will stand alone and mark the end of the initial fly-aways before the F1 circus begins the European section of the season in Barcelona three weeks later on May 13.
The three-week break also ensures teams will have an opportunity to schedule an in-season test, which while prohibited this year, is expected to be made legal for 2012.