The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is set to continue into the 2021 Formula 1 season with the early stages of the calendar likely to be restructured.
Formula 1’s 2020 calendar was heavily overhauled on account of the pandemic, with over half of the original events cancelled, and several new and returning venues stepping in to fill the void.
Formula 1’s provisional 23-round 2021 calendar features a roster of events similar to the pre-pandemic 2020 schedule, along with the addition of Saudi Arabia, and absence of Vietnam.
The season-opening Australian Grand Prix, planned for March 21, is now poised to be postponed due to the pandemic.
Formula 1 had held out hope of creating a biosphere, as happened at the 2020 finale in Abu Dhabi, where paddock personnel were flown in on chartered flights and locked down on Yas Island for the duration of the week. But it is understood this has been deemed unfeasible.
Australia’s response to the pandemic was strict, with residents enduring tough lockdowns, while some citizens have struggled to return to the nation owing to the exceptionally tight entry restrictions.
The Australian Open grand slam tennis tournament is scheduled to go ahead in February, having been delayed by three weeks, but all entrants to the country are subject to a strict two-week quarantine period.
This has been deemed unfeasible for Formula 1 due to its lengthy calendar and the presence of pre-season testing, currently planned for early March, within the two-week window.
Cases of Covid-19 are surging in Europe, especially in the United Kingdom, where the majority of Formula 1’s travelling community is based.
There is also the finances and logistics involved in constructing the Albert Park facility, which would have ordinarily commenced within the next couple of weeks. It was built for the 2020 event, which was cancelled just two hours before practice, and a repeat could not be countenanced by officials and locals alike.
It is understood that Bahrain is now likely to host the opening round, on its original date of March 28, which would mark the third time (after 2006 and 2010) that the country has held the honour.
The Bahrain International Circuit was one of three venues, along with Austria’s Red Bull Ring and Britain’s Silverstone, which hosted two rounds of the 2020 championship.
China’s Grand Prix, currently scheduled as the third round on April 11, is also believed to be on shaky ground.
Several international sporting events that were set to be held in China in the coming months have already been called off.
It is believed that Imola, which returned to the calendar in 2020 under the auspices of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, is a front-runner to fill the TBC slot on April 25.
The fourth event of the campaign does not yet have a confirmed location following the absence of Vietnam.
Formula E’s season-opener, which was planned for Chile this month, has already been called off, as has the WRC’s Rally Sweden.