F1 2013 calendar unclear
GERMAN GRAND PRIX VENUE UNCLEAR: With only a few months left before the 2013 Australian GP, F1 has yet to finalise a venue for the German GP. Above show Ferrari's Fernando Alonso racing to victory at Hockenheim in 2012.
LONDON, Jan 7 - For a sport timed down to a thousandth of a second, Formula 1 seems to be finding it surprisingly difficult to get to grips with a 2013 calendar.
With two months to go before the Australian season-opener in Melbourne on March 17, the sport has yet to confirm how many races there will be in 2013 and where two of them will be held.
Fans can expect to see fewer teams on the grid, with HRT seemingly defunct but still supposedly seeking a buyer. A definitive driver line-up has yet to be released with vacancies at Caterham and Force India.
GERMAN GP DOUBTS
The first official test of the new season begins at the Jerez circuit in southern Spain on February 5 with McLaren currently set to be the first out of the box with plans to launch their car on January 31 2013.
Most teams will have their new cars ready to hit the track as soon as the off-season testing ban is lifted.
July 2013 could be month of uncertainty, with the German Grand Prix venue yet to be decided.
The 2013 season should be the Nuerburgring's turn to host the race under an alternation agreement but the circuit's financial problems could mean it will remain at Hockenheim, the country's other Formula 1 track.
Either way, time is running out with local promoters usually seeking to maximise their chances of breaking even by putting tickets on sale for the race almost as soon as the previous one has finished.
Nuerburgring GmbH managing director Thomas Schmidt said: "If the issue over whether there will be a Formula One race at Nuerburgring in 2013 is sorted out by year-end, that would still be early enough."
Subsequent reports in Germany have spoken of further meetings scheduled for January 2013 with F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone. F1 packages for the German round have been conspicuously absent on ticket websites.
The 20-round calendar has an empty slot for July 21, reserved for another unnamed European event that Ecclestone has identified as being the Turkish Grand Prix.
However, the impetus to bring the Istanbul Park circuit back into the championship stalled when the country's government baulked at subsidising a race attended by few locals.
Ecclestone told Reuters that he was waiting for a response from the Turkish authorities but the season was likely to be 19 races.
Bahrain, which was the big uncertainty in 2012 due to violent civil unrest, remains on the calendar with an April 21 date as the fourth round of the 2013 season.
The situation in the Gulf kingdom remains tense however with police and anti-government demonstrators still clashing almost daily.
The country's highest court upheld prison sentences against 13 leaders of a 2011 uprising in a ruling that could stir up further unrest.
F1 DRIVER LINE-UP
The official starting list for 2013 that was issued in December had 11 teams, one down on 2012, who have paid their entry fees.
While most of the empty spaces for drivers' names have now been filled, Force India have a coveted vacancy with Adrian Sutil and Jules Bianchi the recognised frontrunners.
Sutil has the experience, as a former driver for the Mercedes-powered team, and some financial clout but Bianchi is their reserve as well as being a member of Ferrari's young driver academy.
If, as some reports suggest, Force India are considering switching to Ferrari engines in 2014 then Bianchi would likely sweeten the deal.
Vitaly Petrov, who raced for Caterham in 2012, appears likely to retain that seat but he, like the fans holding off on their travel plans, would like a little more certainty.