China, Bahrain may swap places on 2018 F1 calendar
By Alan Baldwin
GROVE, England (Reuters) - Formula One is confident China will have a race next season but the grand prix in Shanghai may end up swapping dates with Bahrain, commercial managing director Sean Bratches said on Thursday.
China is currently pencilled in as the second round of the season, subject to confirmation of a new contract, on April 8 with the race at Bahrain's Sakhir circuit on the following weekend.
The season is due to start in Australia on March 25.
However the current Shanghai race weekend coincides with China's Qingming three-day national holiday, also known as the Tomb Sweeping Festival, when families pay respects to their ancestors.
That could reduce the crowd and lessen the overall impact in a country that Formula One's new owners Liberty Media have identified as a key growth area.
"We’re trying to take into account global events, local events, religious holidays and things to ensure that...we’re maximising the opportunity for fans to attend the grands prix," Bratches told Reuters.
"We’re talking to both of them (China and Bahrain) to that end and if we can reach a mutually agreed upon solution, which appears to be on track to happen, you’ll probably see that," he said.
Bratches was speaking at a Grand Prix Trust (www.grandprixtrust.com) lunch at the Williams Formula One team's headquarters.
Next year's 21-race calendar was published in June, with the final version due to be approved by the governing FIA on Dec. 6 in Paris.
It features the return of France, with a race for the first time in 10 years, and Germany after a year's absence.
There is also a triple header with grands prix in France, Austria and Britain taking place on successive weekends on June 24, July 1 and 8.
The aim of that, with five European races in six weeks, is to avoid a clash with the World Cup soccer final at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium on July 15.
The draft calendar had Singapore and China listed with asterisks against them but the former was confirmed last weekend with the announcement of a four-year contract extension to 2021.
Bratches expected China to also sign up for another stretch.
"We’re incredibly optimistic on bringing that to fruition, just like we did with Singapore last week," he said.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis)