Australian and Chinese Grands Prix postponed with F1 season to start in Bahrain
Formula One bosses have unveiled a revamped calendar following the postponements of the Australian and Chinese Grands Prix.
The traditional curtain-raiser at Melbourne’s Albert Park will move to November, while the round in Shanghai, scheduled to take place on April 11, will now only go ahead if another round drops off the schedule.
F1 officials have been forced into action with strict coronavirus travel restrictions in place in both countries.
The announcement means two of the opening three rounds have fallen by the wayside. But the sport remains confident of staging a record-breaking 23-round campaign.
Lewis Hamilton will kick off his championship defence in Bahrain on March 28 before the circus heads to Europe for a race in Imola on April 18.
It is expected Portimao in Portugal will then host the third round on May 2 before the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona a week later.
Australia’s new date of November 21 means the season will be extended by one week, with the campaign closing in Abu Dhabi on December 12.
The British Grand Prix retains its original July 18 slot meaning it will avoid a clash with the Euro 2020 final at Wembley and the Wimbledon men’s final.
F1’s new boss Stefano Domenicali said: “It has been a busy start to the year at Formula One and we are pleased to confirm that the number of races planned for the season remains unchanged.
“The global pandemic has not yet allowed life to return to normal, but we showed in 2020 that we can race safely as the first international sport to return and we have the experience and plans in place to deliver on our season.
“It is great news that we have already been able to agree a rescheduled date for the Australian Grand Prix in November and are continuing to work with our Chinese colleagues to find a solution to race there in 2021 if something changes.
“We are very excited to announce that Imola will return for the 2021 season and know our fans will be looking forward to the return of Formula One after the winter break and our revised season-opener in Bahrain.
“Obviously, the virus situation remains fluid, but we have the experience from last season with all our partners and promoters to adapt accordingly and safely in 2021.”
The Chinese GP was the first race to be postponed in last year’s Covid-disturbed schedule, while the 2020 Australian GP was cancelled after a British mechanic from McLaren tested positive for Covid-19 following his arrival in Melbourne.
The sport commendably went on to navigate a 17-round season in just 23 weeks, with Hamilton clinching a record-equalling seventh world championship.
The majority of those races were staged behind closed doors but it is hoped fans could be present for the opening rubber in Bahrain and the following rounds.
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