F1 2021 season-opening Australian GP set for postponement
Formula 1 is facing a disrupted start to the 2021 season as the Australian Grand Prix is poised to be postponed.
The Albert Park event on March 19-21 is now facing the likelihood of being switched to a later date in what is already a record-breaking 23-race calendar.
The move comes as the Australian authorities have severely tightened their Covid-19 rules in light of rising infection rates as a new strain of the virus begins to take hold.
The upcoming Australian Open tennis event in Melbourne is forcing its competitors and officials to quarantine for a period of two weeks prior to the commencement of the tournament that now starts on February 8 after an initial three-week delay.
That is a situation F1 is unwilling to accommodate, meaning a postponement is now almost inevitable and means the race a week later in Bahrain on March 26-28 will usher in the new campaign.
An F1 spokesperson said: "In 2020, we proved that we could return to racing safely and delivered what many thought was impossible in March.
"We have set out our 2021 calendar and look forward to the return of F1 in March this year."
In March last year, F1 was forced to cancel the Australian GP at the 11th hour after a member of the McLaren team tested positive for coronavirus ahead of the event.
That sparked a flurry of postponements and cancellations, although it is understood F1 is confident such a situation will not arise on this occasion.
It is believed other hosts, starting with Bahrain where back-to-back events were held in November and December, are happy for their races to go ahead despite the recent downturn in the Covid-19 situation.
The problem for F1, however, is finding a new date for the race, particularly if it waits until the second half of the year when the weather would again be acceptable and the Covid-19 crisis has hopefully eased courtesy of a mass vaccination programme.
After the August summer break, the second half of the season starts with two triple-headers, with the first in Belgium, Holland and Italy, followed by another in Russia, Singapore and Japan, separated by a week's break.
A free weekend follows in mid-October before back-to-back races in the United States and Mexico, with Brazil a fortnight later on November 14, followed by a Middle East double-header in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi on November 28 and December 5 to conclude the campaign.
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