The idea of running two races in Bahrain to start the 2021 Formula 1 season has been discussed as a back-up option if a planned event in Portugal fails to materialize.
The Portuguese Grand Prix was set to be the third round of the season after Bahrain and Imola, but the slot for Portimao remained as TBC on the latest edition of the calendar as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to hit Europe hard. With ongoing uncertainty, F1 has worked on contingency plans and CEO Stefano Domenicali admits one is to host two races in Bahrain and push Imola back by a week as the third round.
“Everyone was thinking that this year would be easier, but it is not,” Domenicali said. “The proof we have given in terms of professionalism, structure and protocols in place has been very important to manage this situation.
“The reason why we are totally confident that we can give the number of races on the calendar, which is 23 — that we don’t forget is the maximum number that we have had in Formula 1, in the most difficult year — is that we are confident that with the relationships we have, that this can really happen.
“We are fluid and flexible to be ready with other possibilities and we already have different plans B, C, D in place in case they are needed. But I am totally transparent — the things that are fixed today can be very different tomorrow and that is why we are in contact with all the organizers every day.
“I am personally in line with them because all of the organizers from their perspective are ready to organize the grands prix, either with the public (fans) or without them. They are ready for it, but of course they have to respect the input from the local governments — which we respect of course what they decide for their country, so we need to see how things evolve.
“As you know, there is a TBC date there and if it was going to be Portugal, it would have been written Portugal. The reason why it is not is because the situation is not closed yet. As soon as we can we will announce something — in the next days, not the next two months — and we will inform you. I have got personal meetings this weekend to understand what the status is.
“One possible plan B could be a double race in Bahrain — nothing confirmed, but it is an option on the table for our discussion. So far we are focusing to trying to keep the calendar (as it is). We need to be ready to change — it would be wrong to say the opposite.
“It was good, the move we did together with our Australian friends to shift their grand prix to November. We were adjusting dates around that change. And then of of course, China is very important for all of us, but we have received information from the government that up to summertime, they are not willing to have any international events there.
“So we will then consider China on the 2021 calendar in case there is a problem with another place that we need to change last-minute. But for sure we really hope the COVID situation, with the vaccinations in place, will stabilize in the second part of the year.”
Bahrain hosted two races in the 2020 season using different track configurations, with the normal grand prix circuit being used for the first race and a shorter outer circuit for the following weekend.