(London) The start of the Formula 1 season will take off a week later than expected following the postponement of the Australian Grand Prix due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the race in Melbourne has been moved from March to November, the season will now start in Bahrain on March 28.
The Australian race, originally scheduled to rise the curtain of the season on March 21, has been postponed to November 21, with F1 organizers citing “the current situation regarding COVID-19”.
The Chinese Grand Prix has also been postponed but no new date has been set. Strict travel restrictions during a pandemic make Australia and China some of the most difficult countries for F1 teams to get there.
Instead, the season kicks off with the Bahrain Grand Prix, less than four months after the Sakhir venue saw two races as part of the 2020 season.
A race was added at the Imola track in Italy on April 18, a week after the scheduled date of the Chinese Grand Prix. There is a vacant slot on May 2, with the Portimao circuit in Portugal among the main contenders for this weekend.
“Discussions with the promoter and the Chinese authorities are continuing with the possibility of postponing the race later in the season if possible,” F1 said in a statement.
There is no obvious reserve date in the calendar. Races in the second half of the season are run consecutively in three-week blocks, putting a strain on team personnel.
Postponing the Australian Grand Prix already means postponing the end of the season in Abu Dhabi by a week to December 12. The calendar remains at 23 races, a record high.
Martin Pakula, the Minister of Tourism and Major Events for the Victoria State Government which supports the Melbourne race, revealed that it was a sensible move that could potentially involve the presence of international fans – though the borders of the l Australia reopened on time.
“It’s the right decision and we thank the Formula 1 management for their cooperation in setting a new schedule,” he said. The Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix is one of the biggest events in the world and we will ensure that it can run safely and successfully in November. ”
The pandemic disrupts the F1 season for a second year. Last year’s race in Australia was called off when a member of a team tested positive for the coronavirus. Spectators were preparing to enter the circuit for Friday practice when organizers announced the cancellation.
This sparked a cascade of postponements and cancellations, meaning the revamped 2020 season didn’t start until July. There was a condensed schedule of 17 races until December with all races in Europe or the Middle East.