Mike Stevens | Sep 23, 2009

THE AUSTRALIAN F1 GRAND PRIX has lost its opening race status after the FIA announced the calendar for the 2010 Formula One season.

While the Albert Park race has retained its later start date, March 28, allowing organisers to pursue a 5pm start, the FIA has decided to move Bahrain’s event forward to ensure the sport has a presence from the beginning of the month.

Australian Grand Prix Corporation boss Drew Ward said: “Achieving a worldwide audience of more than 100 million viewers illustrates the power of the grand prix in promoting Melbourne on the global stage.

"All eyes will be on Melbourne to see how Aussie hero Mark Webber performs on home ground and how the new teams take on the Albert Park Circuit.

"This is the best of all worlds from a promoter's point of view - Melbourne will attract worldwide media attention early in the season and we can leverage off the first race action in promoting the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park.”

Melbourne’s standing as a twilight event forced organisers to delay the race until the end of the daylight savings period this season, pushing back the entire F1 schedule by nearly four weeks.

Despite receiving his approval for the change, Formula One commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone was reportedly concerned by the early season void caused by rescheduling the Australian event, prompting the Briton to lobby for Bahrain to assume the opening race.

It will mark the second time Australia has been relegated from opening race duties since the Grand Prix moved to Melbourne after the 2006 event was delayed until April to avoid clashing with the Commonwealth Games.

Meanwhile, the FIA has confirmed the return of the Canadian Grand Prix to the F1 schedule after the race was dropped from the calendar this year and announced the arrival of an additional Asian event, the Korean Grand Prix.

The Korean race will be held at the aptly named Korean International Circuit, designed by renowned German architect Hermann Tilke, who is responsible for the design of seven other tracks on the current calendar, including Valencia, Turkey and Sepang.

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