F1 2021 season-opening Australian GP to be postponed due to strict travel protocols and fears over growing Covid cases
AUSTRALIAN Grand Prix bosses are expected to announce that they are postponing F1's season-opening race.
It is another huge blow to the sport after last year's calendar was wrecked and redrawn due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Somehow, F1 chiefs managed to get a 17-race season completed in 2020 but they had planned for a back-to-normal 23-race schedule for this year, kicking off in Melbourne on March 21.
However, Australia's strict travel protocols, plus a fear of growing numbers of new coronavirus cases, particularly in the UK where seven of F1's 10 teams are based, means organisers are looking to delay the race until later in the year.
It would be a blow for F1 and the Australian GP organisers after last year's race was scrapped after a member of the McLaren team tested positive for COVID-19 the day before practice.
It resulted in F1 being forced to cancel the race and the season did not start until July at the Red Bull Ring.
Australia took strict actions to control the spread of the virus and closed their borders to non-citizens soon after the Albert Park race was cancelled last March.
Melbourne Airport was completely closed to incoming flights and any new arrivals are forced to spend two weeks in quarantine hotels as a precaution.
Those protocols are even tougher for the Australian Open tennis tournament that is due to go ahead in Melbourne from February 8.
The Victorian State Government has made it clear that the rules will not be broken to help the tennis star's travel schedules.
And the same would apply to F1 drivers, teams and staff, who would be expected to spend up to three weeks placed in quarantine upon arrival.
Also, unlike the tennis tournament that is held in one venue, the Albert Park street circuit requires three months of construction work in advance.
And with that deadline looming, it has forced GP bosses to make an early decision on whether to delay the race until later in the year.
If the Melbourne race is delayed, it would mean the Bahrain Grand Prix that is scheduled for March 28 would be the 2021 season-opener.
A spokesperson for F1 told SunSport: "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."
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