Start, Albert Park, Melbourne, 2019

Australian GP promoter insists it will hold first F1 race of 2021

2021 F1 season

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The promoter of the Australian Grand Prix has rejected claims it will not hold the opening round on the 2021 F1 calendar.

The Albert Park circuit in Melbourne was due to hold the first race of this year’s season, but the event was cancelled due to the pandemic. As RaceFans revealed last month, consideration was given to delaying F1’s 2021 return until later in the year to increase the chance spectators would be able to attend the race.

Other publications subsequently claimed a ‘leaked calendar’ showed the Australian Grand Prix would take place in October. However RaceFans understands there is no single draft calendar for the 2021 F1 season at present.

Australian Grand Prix Corporation CEO Andrew Westacott told Nine Network in Australia the event will hold the opening round of next year’s world championship.

“Melbourne will again host the F1 season opener in the traditional March time slot, which will form a significant part of the recovery of the major sports and events industry in Victoria,” said Westacott in a statement.

Two significant Covid-19 outbreaks have occured in Australia. The first took place around the time F1 teams arrived for the season-opener before it was called off, and a second wave peaked in August. Yesterday the Bathurst 12 Hour race, which was due to take place at the New South Wales venue in early 2021, was cancelled.

The Bahrain International Circuit was considered as a potential replacement venue for next year’s F1 season opener. It held the first races of the 2006 and 2010 championships, and is expected to host pre-season testing in 2021.

The original Formula 1 calendar for 2020 included 22 races, which would have been a record. However the schedule was cut to 17 rounds when it was reorganised as a result of the pandemic.

Liberty Media has previously indicated a desire to further increase the length of the F1 calendar. RaceFans understands next year’s schedule could include more than 22 races if the sport’s commercial rights holder is successful in all its negotiations with promoters.

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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52 comments on “Australian GP promoter insists it will hold first F1 race of 2021”

  1. I don’t know what the promoters are smoking but they clearly can’t read even the most basic regulations that apply to international travel in Australia.

    They also seem to not be recognising that Melbourne has effectively been locked down for the last couple of months because of an outbreak that was sourced from an international traveller in quarantine.

    Given what Melbourne residents have had to go through whilst the authorities have worked to control the outbreak, I’d imagine that there would be a massive outcry if some “promoter” made overtures to the government to ignore all current COVID controls so they could hold a race.

    If NSW is cancelling the 12 hour race in April, there’s just no sensible way the F1 race could go ahead.

    1. B12hr was scheduled for 2nd Feb, not April. And the cancellation is based on the difficulty of getting teams in, and having enough spectators to cover costs. It’s a mostly privately funded event, unlike F1.
      F1 isn’t until March – 5 months away.

      International travel has started to open up (with NZ, so far) already. Given that the footy is allowing 30k people into the Grand Final, I hardly think that F1 should cancel the race right now. Things are looking up and there’s plenty of time for them to get better – or if they don’t continue to improve, make a decision to delay at a later date.
      Maybe it would be clever to throw some more money at The Bend and get that up to Grade 1 spec, just in case…

      Anyway, Australia is doing far better than Europe, and they are holding races every couple of weeks right now.
      It’s not impossible, or even all that stupid to be planning for a March race now.

      1. Very likely Australia will have low enough infection rates to be ready to receive tourists and fans.
        But where do you think they will come from? Not many countries will be allowed to send tourists as early as March.
        Filling Albert Park with 300,000 kiwis during the weekend will do little to the tourism industry as most already roam around in Australia.

        1. Not likely at all

          They’re talking possibly July 2021 before international travel is opened up and even that’s highly unlikely unless there’s a vaccine in wide use.

          Even one of our states is talking April 2021 before it opens up it’s hard border.

          The reason we have such low rates of infection here in Aus and in NZ is because we have borders shut to international travel and only allow only our own citizens to return in small numbers via mandatory quarantine.

          No way is the government suddenly going to let a bunch of international’s in for a F1 race.

        2. @coldfly The only way to get 300k Kiwis into Albert Pk would be to hold a Rugby match 😆

          1. Ritchie McCaw isn’t busy right? Get him in one of the Hass seats?
            Anyway, other than Kiwis, I don’t expect to see international tourists in Melbourne early next year but if they put their minds to it (decent security, not the one with the best profit margin) they could handle a bubble the size of the F1 show itself and, if community infection rates are low enough, let some or even most local fans through the gates.

      2. Stephen Higgins
        20th October 2020, 12:49

        I think The Bend already is a Grade 1 circuit.

        It’s also out in the middle of nowhere, having watched the V8 Supercars round there, so it would probably help F1 maintain their bio-bubbles a lot easier than a crowded suburban park circuit like Melbourne.

        Shame they can’t take F1 to Phillip Island though …

        1. Grade 2 at the moment.
          Runoffs and walls need a bunch of work for Grade 1 certification.
          Anyway, Victorian Government would rather lose the Australian GP entirely than let another state run it.

          And Philip Island is only Grade 3.

          1. Interstate politics certainly seem to have driven a lot of Mr Westacott’s statements during the crisis, particularly when he threw a hissy fit after the Bend said it was ready and available to host. So yes, Victoria will indeed probably guard the hosting rights jealously. But they should beware. We’ve just had a GP two weeks ago with an invented name to get round the problem of another circuit hoarding the naming rights to the relevant national GP. Maybe Melbourne won’t let the Bend have the Australian GP but that couldn’t stop F1 arranging, say, a South Australian GP there.

        2. Albert park isn’t a standard street circuit – and even circuits right in city blocks are locked up tight to keep freeloaders from doing what they do. Then there’s a second membrane around the paddock/pits – for security and to keep paddock passes worth an ozzie monza.

  2. Over 22 races is a bit too much.

    1. 21 was too much. It should be limited to 18. People have a right to a home life and off season. Every two weeks with a mid season break should be about 39 weeks (leaving a 3 month off season or 13 weeks, testing should be the week prior to the first and the week after the last race). For logistics the back to backs on flyway where possible should still occur making the two weeks three immediately after.

      Anything else is crazy. The way the championships are they are a foregone conclusion well ahead of the mathematical end already.

      1. @sjay02
        They do have a right to a home life…. Life is about choices – they can get another job if that’s their priority. Should be pretty easy to do with ‘F1 team crew’ on their CV’s.

        Most people work 48-50 weeks per year, and for a lot less money and perks than they do. They are in a privileged position, and the queue to take their place is long.

        1. S, why do you think that they have “a privileged position”?

          It’s been pointed out that most of those involved in F1 really don’t live the sort of life of luxury that you think they do, and that the idea that they are “in a privileged position” really isn’t true – for example, if you compare salaries for individuals in comparable roles elsewhere in industry, they’re basically no better than average.

          In fact, quite a lot of people do frequently walk from the sport because they take the attitude that the work-life balance is pretty terrible. If you look at some of the feedback that people leave on recruitment sites of what it’s like to work in the sport, quite a few people actually advise against joining the sport for that reason – complaints about individuals suffering from mental health problems or problems with alcohol abuse are also not unknown either.

          Maybe, if you’re at the top, you might think you’re “in a privileged position” – but for the majority of those in the sport, reality really is rather different.

          1. Okay, for starters, they have full-time employment. That’s a luxury now.
            They work in an industry with a strong reputation and image, which is very desirable for future employment/employees and is relatively generously remunerated.

            All industries suffer with work/life balance, and the exact balancing point is unique to every individual, regardless of the industry.
            Likewise, mental and physical health issue are not specific to the F1 industry, and are generally a far larger concern in most other industries.

            People ‘at the top’ rarely think they are in a privileged position – they often convince themselves that they earned it and deserve it more than others do. Sometimes it’s true, sometimes it isn’t.

            Everybody is different. Those who choose to work in F1 and are lucky enough to do so are indeed in a privileged position, as is anyone else who gets to do their ‘dream job’. But that simply isn’t a reality for many people. They aren’t slaves, they are free to leave when it is no longer perfect for them.
            Just like most other jobs and industries.
            In the free world, anyway….

      2. Yeah…the only way to solve this is to ditch some circuits and races, – including some races we never wanted – and then bring back the more favorable ones.

  3. My understanding, after chatting to workers in Baku, is that all the circuits use one of two sets of contractors to set up the cabling etc. who all happen to be from the UK.

    How’s that going to work? And where are they expecting the spectators to come from?

  4. Can someone please explain why Australia always holds the first race?

    1. @Dan I don’t know. It’s just been like this most of the time since Melbourne took over the Australian GP from Adelaide.

    2. I assume an exchange of money somewhere along the line!

    3. Can someone please explain why Australia always holds the first race?

      Er… it doesn’t? 2010 ring a bell?

    4. Partly a contractual issue ($) and partly a weather/seasonal issue.

  5. As I had read elsewhere before, Melbourne indeed still attempts to start the season. I’ve also seen the draft calendar leaked on a couple of sites, but apparently, it was made-up, after all. Nevertheless, I don’t think the race calendar will eventually be precisely like the one I saw as COVID-19 will probably still be around next year and affect things to some extent. For this reason, I also doubt the figure would get above 22. For example, the five ‘non-original’ 2020 tracks are all unlikely to remain simultaneously, especially both Mugello and Imola, as otherwise, Italy would have three next season as well. Only if next year would also see some more regular events getting cancelled due to circumstances caused by COVID.

    1. That ‘leaked’ calendar was absolute rubbish. The Aus GP date clashes with the weekend the MotoGP is held, as well as being smack bang in the middle of Melbourne’s horse racing carnival, with the second biggest race of the year being held on the Saturday. There is absolutely no way the Aus GP corporation let alone the government would allow it to go ahead on that October 24 date.

      1. @milesy-jam Rubbish indeed. It shows both Japan and Australia as standalone events and Singapore seven days after Russia, as well as a triple-header consisting of Azerbaijan, NL, and Spain – not going to happen like this, LOL. I also doubt Baku would accept April again as doing it this early into the season could reduce its chances of happening at all.

  6. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect the Melbourne race to go ahead, however I’d be very surprised if there are spectators. Melbourne can’t afford a third wave after how locked down we’ve been.

    The Australian Open for tennis will be the first test, how that goes ahead with what sort of crowd – and at what rate infections change because of it – will be a test for what F1 can expect.

  7. I hope they don’t. The track is boring.

    1. Even as an Aussie, I’ve got to agree.
      It could improve greatly with a few changes – but it would be even better still to just go somewhere else.

      Still, it’s best to get it out of the way early.
      Unless – a winter GP could be relatively fun. No shortage of rain in Melbourne for most of the year.

      1. Why not make Bathurst fit for F1 cars?

        1. Because that would ruin the Bathurst circuit.
          It’s good for the same reason that the Nordschleife is good.

          ‘Upgrading’ to FIA Grade 1 would destroy its character, and most of what is good about it.

        2. I’m pretty sure that Bathurst can’t be an FIA Grade One circuit without significant, character-crushing modifications. I know that the idea of an F1 race at Australia’s greatest motor racing circuit is highly desirable, but not at the expense of losing Mt Panorama’s soul.

    2. They were hoping to do extensive renovations of the track layout ahead of the race next year. That’s been postponed obviously but hopefully they will do them ahead of the new regulations in 2022

      1. I think the best alteration they could do would be to move the start line; to Adelaide!

        Sooo much better in Adelaide than it has been in Melbourne.

        1. Adelaide street circuit would be impossible for current cars. To tight, narrow and bumpy, and runoffs are too small. The teams would all have a fit.
          Apart from that, the streets have been modified since F1 last raced there. The old circuit layout can’t be rebuilt the way it was before.
          And the current version used for Supercars is too short.

  8. It doesn’t matter if anyone dies in Melbourne as long as Australia gets the first event………..??????????

    Better not shout, better not cry, better not pout I’m telling you why…
    The CORONAVIRUS is coming to town.

    Unlikely any racing will happen in
    Australia again in 2021. The problems look to become far worse than so far as winter approaches and never never again allow the US President to handle things like he did for he knows not what he has done.
    I want F1 to return as soon as possible but only when the virus is stopped. Why not run at Bahrain? Are there any fans there? Track seems to be so far out there, so on another planet like environment, that I wonder if the event is actually held on this planet. Sure looks like Mars there.
    2021 looks to become 2020 again. Until the virus is stopped across the entire world how can Formula One ever return to normal ?

    1. …as winter approaches…

      Australia is in the southern hemisphere, so summer is approaching.

      1. The point was its getting far worse in Europe yet in Australia we only have a very small amount of community cases a day. And could very well soon be 0 for Melbourne. We already know what its like here in Melbourne to have coronavirus leak out of hotel quarantine and the last thing we want is for the grand prix to cause it. I like f1 buts its a bad idea given Australia’s unique place in the world.

  9. Very few people I think, fans or the teams, want more than 20 races in a season from what I can tell on here over the years. Then certainly not more than 22. Then hardly anyone wants to see new races in places like Saudi Arabia either. This idea should be dropped and if they must lose Brazil they should instead replace it with one of the new, non-original 2020 races e.g. Mugello, Poritmao, Imola, etc.

  10. Around the world in 20 races, that’s my vote.
    Start in Australia going west to end in Japan. Follow the sun!

  11. Yeah, not happening. Given the current situation and the harsh winter to come, it’ll take a miracle for the Australian GP to take place in March, in Melbourne of all places. If only F1 could go back to Adelaide or switch to the Bend…

    Regarding the calendar, I’d rather have a handful of races on decent tracks instead of a GP every week on awful circuits. If I had to give a limit, 20 GPs per year would be acceptable.

  12. The longer we’ve been in lockdown in Melbourne, the more I’ve lost hope that we’ll have a race next year. It looks like we’re on top of the pandemic now but that’s what we thought in June. Imagine closing down a bunch of streets to set up the circuit for it to be cancelled due to a 3rd wave. Realistically, I think F1 should ditch the idea of street races for 2021, especially outside Europe.

    1. Oh, and I can’t imagine crowd restrictions changing much between now and March. I don’t think locals would be happy with the disruption if hardly anyone can attend anyway. I wonder if any circuits could get up to standard for F1 (such as Philip Island).

      1. Philip Island is grade 3.

        More likely The Bend (which is grade 2), but no way the Vic Government would allow SA to host it again…

  13. Hahahaha…I wonder if Andrew Westacott has spoken with Dan “El Jefe” Andrews about this.

  14. With tens of thousands of cases a day in the UK, France+Monaco and Italy vs 3 just today in Victoria, is it really safe for us to open up the borders to let hundreds of F1 team personnel into Australia?

    Last time 3 McLaren engineers were found infected.

    I don’t think its a good idea unless all personnel are vaccinated prior (unlikely even if one is available soon) and with a high efficacy vaccine.

    We need to keep this virus away from Australia and Kiwiland. We shouldn’t hold it in March 2021.

    1. No need for a vaccine – just test them before they even get on the plane to come to Australia.
      It’s the most basic thing to do, that no country seems to be doing. And nobody can explain why.

      1. civil rights but did you check a airport lately? So you going to Australia with you negative covid test fly there and in the evening you feel a bit under the weather and there you a new spreader… those test cost time and if you get inflicted after the test it takes time to get it.

        It would work only if they test during checkin AND when you arrive (2 tests) no the race will be without public if there isn’t a vaccine.

        1. @macleod
          F1 is doing plenty of testing every couple of days. And airports can (and should) be controlled. They certainly are in Australia.

          Ahhh, you are referring to public/tourists… I would think it would be sensible for anyone interested in voluntary international travel to prepare accordingly and take all precautions necessary – if they are even allowed to travel at all.
          F1 has proven it can run events without spectators if necessary. Limited numbers have been allowed into races under strict conditions already, in countries with far worse infection rates than Australia.

          I would suggest two tests – one on the day of travel and one two days prior. Be extremely cautious – not only because nobody wants to get it, but nobody should want to spread it either.
          But whatever – I’m no expert.
          I’d very happily bet that ‘flyaway’ races will be held next year without a vaccine – because this is F1…

  15. I’m pretty sure that Bathurst can’t be an FIA Grade One circuit without significant, character-crushing modifications. I know that the idea of an F1 race at Australia’s greatest motor racing circuit is highly desirable, but not at the expense of losing Mt Panorama’s soul.

  16. With all due respect, there’s no real point in running a story about Melbourne’s 2021 situation without comment from Liberty Media and/or the FIA. I have no idea what Liberty’s position is, but recent comments from Jean Todt aren’t heartening.

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