Bahrain, which made history in 2004 by becoming the first Middle Eastern country to host a Formula One Grand Prix, will have the honour of kicking off the 2006 F1 season on March 12.
Australia, which hosted the traditional season opener in recent times, has been pushed back to third to avoid a timing conflict with the Commonwealth Games.
Bahrain hosted its first Formula One Championship race on April 4, 2004.
It fought off fierce competition from elsewhere in the region to stage the race, with Egypt, Lebanon and UAE all hoping for the prestige of hosting the Formula One.
The inaugural race was given the award for the 'Best Organised Grand Prix' by the FIA.
The Bahrain race will be keenly watched, and not just because it is the first race of a new season.
A number of significant changes have been made to the Formula One regulations.
In an attempt to curb the increasing engine power levels of recent years, the maximum engine displacement will be reduced from 3.0 to 2.4 litres and the number of cylinders from 10 to 8.
The switch to smaller engines may not mean a significant decrease in power, however, because some engine suppliers have already indicated that their smaller V8s can rev higher than the 19,000rpms normal for 2005-spec V10s.
Tyre changes return to Formula One, with each driver limited to 14 sets of tyres, consisting of seven sets of dry-weather tyres, four sets of wet-weather tyres and three sets of extreme-weather tyres.
A new qualifying system will also be debuted in Bahrain, consisting of three sessions of varying length. A 15-minute session will be held first, in which the six slowest cars from that session are eliminated and thus set in grid positions 17 - 22.
After a five-minute break, another 15-minute session is held with the remaining cars, and again the six slowest cars will be eliminated and set in positions 11 - 16. These 12 drivers that have been eliminated will be placed in parc ferme, with the important distinction that they will be allowed to modify their fuel load, as they see fit.
The remaining 10 cars will then, during a five minute break, declare their fuel loads to the FIA. A final 20 minute session will then set the top 10 grid positions. The teams will be allowed to run their fuel load as low as possible by making as many laps as possible, and thus improve their times as the weight falls. This is an improvement for the TV audience because the teams will need to be out making as many laps as possible to lower their fuel load.
Following this session, the top 10 cars will be placed in parc ferme and required to refill their fuel load to the level of that at the beginning of the final 20 minutes.
There is speculation that a small change will come into force on this rule, as a loophole was found by the FIA. It was feared that teams would declare a big fuel-load, but then on the out lap, 'leak' or use a big quantity of fuel and thus having a lighter car to go quicker with. The FIA though will calculate, based on fuel consumption of a V8 engine, how much fuel had been used, and the teams will only be allowed to refill up to that level, instead of the original one given.
Only one free practice session will take place on Saturdays. It will be one hour in length, and will finish no less than two hours before qualifying, usually between 11.00 and 12.00, replacing the old system of two 45-minute sessions.
Powered by AkoComment!