F1 executives were hoping for the return of normalcy in 2021 after enduring the most atypical and disrupted season in history during 2020. They didn’t even want to discuss the possibility of having to review an updated 2021 F1 calendar.
Only twelve days into the new year, however, and their wishes have already been shattered. Changes in the 2021 schedule are starting to be announced, causing a stir in the heart of the Formula 1 organisation.
After the persistent rumours of recent days surrounding the likelihood of delays and cancellations ahead, finally, an updated season calendar for 2021 containing important changes has been released this Tuesday.
Australian GP, postponed; Bahrain GP
Although the new schedule still contemplates the record number of 23 races, the start of the action is delayed by a week and it changes location completely. The Australian Grand Prix will not be hosting the curtain-raising round on March 21 as scheduled. The season will now start seven days later, on the 28th, with the Bahrain Grand Prix at the Sakhir Circuit.
The announcement puts an end to the recent speculation regarding the likely postponement of the Melbourne appointment to another more appropriate time when Covid-19 numbers are lower.
The journey down represented a considerable logistical challenge but more significantly national authorities recently decreed a two-week quarantine for anyone entering the country. The prospect of having the F1 entourage inactive and confined during that time would be unfeasible from a financial point of view.
The decision also seeks to avoid the painful events of the previous year, when the race was suspended just a few hours before the start of the free practice sessions on Friday. That lack of foresight caused great upset among fans, who had already travelled to the circuit in Melbourne.
As for its new date within the updated calendar, the Australian Grand Prix is now to be held on November 19-21, the third-to-last stop of the season. Given the unpredictability of the pandemic, however, any such planning seems more wishful thinking than anything else.
Chinese GP, delayed
Another expected change on this revised F1 calendar for 2021 is the Chinese Grand Prix. Again, the travel restrictions established by the Chinese government have driven the organisers of the Asian race to request a date change.
F1 bosses have now reassured that they are currently holding negotiations with their Chinese associates to try and find the best date to relocate the GP. For now, however, the Chinese is the second casualty of this reshuffle.
Filling the void left by the Shanghai event will be the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Enzo e Dino Ferrari Autodrome in Imola on April 16-18, as the second commitment of 2021.
Another races in jeopardy
The Grand Prixs of Brazil, Saudi Arabia (new in the calendar) and Abu Dhabi (the season’s finale), remain very much in the air and news confirming their spots are expected to follow soon.
In addition, and although nothing has been said yet, the future of some of the urban races such as Monaco is uncertain. In 2020 the legendary race that runs through the streets of Monte Carlo had to be cancelled due to the impossibility of it going ahead with no public.
Images of Updated 2021 F1 calendar: F1.com.