F1

Australia F1 race postponed, China uncertain

LONDON • Formula One yesterday postponed the Australian Grand Prix from March to November, with Bahrain opening the season and China’s race left hanging, as the Covid-19 pandemic forced the sport to rewrite the calendar.

Italy’s Imola circuit was added to the record 23-round schedule as the second race on April 18, after Bahrain on March 28.

The third slot on May 2 has yet to be confirmed but is expected to be filled by Portugal’s Algarve circuit, which debuted last year.

Australia was given a new date of Nov 21 for what would normally be the season-opener in Melbourne on March 21.

The Chinese Grand Prix, initially slated for April 18, was postponed as current travel restrictions made the scheduled date impossible.

While not listed on the revised schedule, Formula One indicated the Shanghai race would be slotted in if circumstances allowed and another race dropped.

Both the Australian and Chinese races were cancelled last year as the pandemic ripped up the calendar, with the season reduced to 17 grands prix in Europe and the Middle East.

“We are pleased to confirm that the number of races planned for the season remains unchanged,” F1’s new chief executive Stefano Domenicali said in a statement.

“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.”

Tickets for the Australian Grand Prix had yet to go on sale and organisers said it was the right decision to reschedule.

“As the third-last race of the season, this provides the opportunity to safely host what could be the championship-decider in Melbourne in the lead-in to summer,” said Australian Grand Prix Corporation chairman Paul Little.

23

Races planned for this year’s F1 calendar.

The new calendar, which is subject to approval by the governing body FIA, also features three successive triple-headers.

Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy will be staged on successive weekends from Aug 29 to Sept 12. Likewise for the Russia, Singapore and Japan races from Sept 26 to Oct 10 and the United States, Mexico and Brazil events from Oct 24 to Nov 7. No American races were held last year due to the pandemic while the Netherlands, Singapore and Japan rounds were also axed.

The season ends with a double-header in Saudi Arabia, making its debut with a night race in Jeddah on Dec 5, and Abu Dhabi on Dec 12 – a week later than originally planned.

F1 is expecting fans to return to the races this season after most races were held behind closed doors or in front of severely restricted numbers last year.

REUTERS

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