Bahrain could open next year's Formula 1 world championship, AUTOSPORT has learned, with the sport's commercial chief Bernie Ecclestone pondering a reshuffle of races at the start of next season.
Australia has held the opening slot on the calendar since 1996, with the only exception being 2006 when it was moved back on the schedule to avoid a clash with the Commonwealth Games.
However, the Melbourne event's shift to a twilight race, so as to capture a better television audience in Europe, has forced its date to be put back until after the start of daylight saving time - with next year's (UK) clock change taking place on the race's provisional March 28 date.
There has been some concern, however, that waiting until the end of March to start the season is not ideal - which is why Ecclestone is looking into the possibility of holding another race before then.
Sources have confirmed that Ecclestone is discussing with teams the possibility of starting the season with the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 14 instead. Back in 2006, the Sakhir circuit hosted the season opener.
No decision has been taken, and AUTOSPORT understands that Australian GP officials are pushing hard to ensure that their race keeps its place as the first event on the calendar.
Ecclestone distributed an early version of the calendar to team principals in Valencia last week, but work is still going on regarding reinstating the Canadian Grand Prix, plus there remains uncertainty about the fate of the race in Britain amid doubts that Donington Park will be ready.
Talks will continue over the next few weeks to finalise the schedule, with BMW motorsport director Mario Theissen confirming that Canada was likely to return, but was not definite yet. "There is an opportunity, but not a contract," he said.
When asked whether he felt it likely that Bahrain or Australia would start the season, Theissen said: "Both scenarios are in discussion, but I have not seen a finalised calendar."