Bernie Ecclestone is not denying the accuracy of a “leaked” 2016 F1 race calendar.
On Wednesday, organisers of the Australian grand prix triggered the story by announcing that the Melbourne opener next year will be held in early April.
It will be the first time in three decades that the season will begin so late.
“I’m not bothered by the (April 3) date,” said race chief Andrew Westacott. “I’m very pleased to have it confirmed so early,” he told local Fairfax Media.
Although now retiring, Australian GP supremo Ron Walker is a key ally of F1 chief executive Ecclestone, so it is interesting that the statement on Wednesday also announced that the late season opener will “condense” the 2016 calendar.
It was at that point that apparently leaked versions of the provisional race schedule for next year, featuring an unprecedented 21 grands prix, began to do the rounds.
One version, published by Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport, shows the addition of Azerbaijan and the return of Germany, and multiple ‘back-to-back’ race weekends including Australia and China in early April.
The Ecclestone-run Formula One Management did not deny the accuracy of the unofficial calendar.
“It would appear that the proposed 2016 calendar has been leaked,” it said in a statement. “This calendar has not yet been approved.”
Britain’s Times newspaper surmised that the condensed calendar is designed to “give the sport a more hectic year of action”.
“Another theory,” said the Telegraph, “is that condensing the calendar … could also reduce the need to travel back and forth to the teams’ bases in Europe”, thereby cutting costs for struggling teams. (GMM)