Start, Autodromo do Algarve, 2020

Algarve and Imola in the frame to hold races as China joins at-risk list

2021 F1 calendar

Posted on

| Written by and

Formula 1 is closing on a return to both Portugal’s Algarve circuit and Imola in Italy this year as the pandemic puts multiple early-season fly-away races in jeopardy.

As revealed by RaceFans on Saturday, Australia’s season-opening race is likely to be postponed due to the logistical difficulties of arranging the Albert Park race amid the pandemic. The Bahrain Grand Prix will therefore become the first round of the new championship.

However the following round of the season at the Shanghai International Circuit in China on April 11th is now also believed to be in doubt as infection rates climb in Europe.

RaceFans understands from multiple sources that, while Formula 1 is still negotiating with the promoters, contingency plans are being drawn up for the beginning of the championship, involving additional races at two European venues. The venue for the fourth race of the season had not previously been confirmed, giving F1 flexibility to make alternative arrangements.

If the races in Australia and China cannot go ahead on their original planned dates, the season will begin in Bahrain on March 28th. RaceFans understands F1 does not plan to repeat last year’s double-header event at the track.

Under the contingency plan for the reorganised 2021 F1 calendar, the championship would then continue at Imola on April 18th and the Algarve circuit near Portimao on May 2nd.

Australia’s round of the championship would be delayed to November 21st. To accommodate this, Brazil’s race would be moved forward by one week, forming a triple-header of consecutive races with the USA and Mexico.

In order to facilitate travel to Australia, the Melbourne race would have a two-week gap either side of it. The inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in Jeddah would move back to December 5th, and the season conclude in Abu Dhabi as usual on the later date of December 12th.

It remains to be seen whether the Chinese round would be rescheduled or cancelled entirely if it cannot go ahead on its original date.

RaceFans understands the proposed dates and venues were discussed at a meeting between Formula 1 and team bosses on Monday. This was the first occasion Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali had spoken to teams in the new role he took on at the beginning of the year.

A further knock-on effect of the postponement of the Australian Grand Prix is likely to see pre-season testing relocated from Spain to Bahrain. However teams were at odds over the timing of the test when the subject was discussed on Monday. While some wish to delay the test as late as possible, other prefer an earlier date in order to ensure any problems they may discover with their cars can be rectified before the championship begins.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Potential reorganised 2021 F1 calendar

RoundCircuitDate
1Bahrain International CircuitMar 26-28
2ImolaApr 16-18
3Autodromo do AlgarveApr 30-May 2
4Circuit de CatalunyaMay 7-9
5MonacoMay 20-23
6Baku City CircuitJun 4-6
7Circuit Gilles VilleneuveJun 11-13
8Paul RicardJun 25-27
9Red Bull RingJul 2-4
10SilverstoneJul 16-18
11HungaroringJul 30-Aug 1
12Spa-FrancorchampsAug 27-29
13ZandvoortSep 3-5
14MonzaSep 10-12
15Sochi AutodromSep 24-26
16SingaporeOct 1-3
17SuzukaOct 8-10
18Circuit of the AmericasOct 22-24
19Autodromo Hermanos RodriguezOct 29-31
20InterlagosNov 5-7
21Albert ParkNov 19-21
22JeddahDec 3-5
23Yas MarinaDec 10-12

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2021 F1 season

Browse all 2021 F1 season articles

Author information

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...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

45 comments on “Algarve and Imola in the frame to hold races as China joins at-risk list”

  1. Simply do the pre-season test from March 14 to 16 (16th is the latest possible). What would be the point of doing it earlier and possibly force everyone to stay in the country for longer? The lead time from March 16 to March 26 is sufficient enough to get new parts from Europe to Bahrain in time. A ten-day gap is perfectly fine for ‘fixing issues’ too.

    Algarve on the weekend before Spain would be good, and this is something I’ve hoped for before. There’d be two weekends without a race between Bahrain and Imola, but not the end of the world. Istanbul Park on the Chinese GP weekend would work as it’s just before Ramadan commences.

    Rescheduling the Australian GP in November would be the end of Melbourne as the season-opener due to the insufficiency of the gap from November to March.

    1. The point of doing it earlier, is that if there are any teething problems (see McLaren having a completely different power unti installed, or the Ferrari teams who will hope to have a pretty large powertrain upgrade, or Mercedes who redid their steering rack to ditch DAS, etc) there will actually be an opportunity to adress those before the first race @jerejj.

      It would make sense either to move stuff to Bahrain quite a bit ahead of time, do the test and then return to the bases, leaving just all equipment at the track and flying in new bits and people only shortly before the race.
      Or indeed, as you mention, have the test right ahead of the race. But then, what if there ARE issues discovered? Would it even make sense to test right ahead of the race?

  2. I had expected F1 to already have some pre-agreements in place for these kind of situations. I suppose it doesn’t matter as these circuits won’t have much else going on anyways, but at least for short-notice cancellations I’d have expected some back-ups to be on call.

  3. Here’s hoping Mugello finds its way back in the calendar! Also a race in Germany would be great, either at the Nurburgring, or at Hockenheim; and maybe Turkey as well

  4. I don’t mean to be silly here… But Australia is really big and kind of empty.
    With most of the country on lockdown would it not be possible to find a loop of road somewhere in the outback and use that for the weekend?
    The teams could use gazebos for pit garages and the big flat desert of Australia would make a perfect run-off.

    In all seriousness is there no other track that would work for Australia? Do they need to use a track in the middle of a big city?

    1. @napierrailton Albert Park circuit is the only one that holds the necessary FIA grade 1 certification.

    2. The Gunbarrel Highway Grand Prix. Has a certain ring to it :-)

    3. It’s also the quarantine logistics, as an Australian I can tell you for fact that no one, not even sport stars are allowed in without two weeks quarantine. F1 won’t have time to do that after testing and before the race. This is particularly of concern with the new British strain of covid. We have very few cases of covid ATM and would like to keep it that way.

      1. I agree. If you’ve more or less got the virus under control then why would you let your standards slip? At the very least countries are going to expect the entire F1 contingent be vaccinated.

    4. If you’re hinting of an adelaide come back, I approve!

    5. They *could* test at The Bend (FIA Grade 2, but not unsafe for F1 testing) and spend their 2 weeks quarantine in a temporary tent city outside of Tailem Bend ;)
      Then it’s only a quick 8 hour drive down to Melbourne for the GP…

      Or better still – stuff Melbourne and hold the race at The Bend too. It’s a far better layout which only needs a few extra walls and gravel traps put in to bring it up to Grade 1 status.

      1. S, F1 requires a 1T licence to test, and it’s the quarantine issue that’s the problem here. They’d have to set off in mid-February to test at The Bend, assuming the 1T upgrade went to plan (not a given, as the rules may not be compatible with the necessary circuit inspection even if everything is already in place physically).

    6. Dude have you not seen those programs on Australian airports, you get arrested for bringing melon in.

      1. @tonymansell I’ve watched those to some extent (also UK’s, Canada’s, and NZ’s equivalents). I get what you mean, but it’s pretty much the same everywhere, LOL.

        1. @jerejj

          Its funny watching them, theres some mega serious security questioning a totally perplexed traveller and i’m thinking drugs, guns, people trafficking and the camera pans down to a packet of beef jerky. Anyway not strictly on topic but Oz seems petrified of outsiders, the irony.

          1. OT but…

            I did Brisbane > Fiji > Sydney a couple of years back and wanted to get some sweets to bring back to the office in the UK. I was so petrified of getting clobbered by customs in Sydney I decided not to bother.

    7. @napierrailton The problem is that no exemption is being given for quarantine laws, meaning it would be unfeasible to schedule a test close enough to the season opener. (F1, I think, is trying to delay it as much as possible because that reduces the risk a bit, since more people will be vaccinated by March than by February). The quarantine legal situation isn’t any better in, say, Western Australia than it is in Victoria.

  5. Stephen Higgins
    6th January 2021, 15:58

    If Melbourne cannot go ahead, what about moving the Australian GP to The Bend ??

    It’s remote and out in the sticks which would help with bubbling and although the track itself little bit Tilkedrome-y from watching the V8 Supercars races, I’m pretty sure it was built to FIA Grade One standard.

    Imola, Portimao, Turkey, Mugello and Nurburgring again ??

    Bring ’em on …

    1. @Stephen Higgins Only one track in Australia holds the necessary FIA grade 1, and that is the Albert Park circuit.

    2. Stephen Higgins, that would require The Bend to have a licence upgrade, which at the very least requires a track inspection (assuming all Grade 1 requirements are met), which may not be possible under the current restrictions, depending on location of the relevant expertise (if it has to be flown in from abroad, that would add at least 3 weeks to the timeframe required, to contract, fly in and quarantine the personnel).

  6. I would much rather see Istanbul on the calendar than either Portimao or Imola.

    1. @Witan Same for me, but even more so Mugello, i.e., Imola and Mugello than Imola and Portimao. Alternatively, Istanbul and Mugello or even Fuji if it wasn’t for Japan’s travel restrictions.

      1. Fuji and Mugello, I mean.

        1. Fuji is good cause of the constant rain!

    2. Witan, I doubt Turkey would consent to a F1 race at this point due to the fact it’s basically in lockdown right now. It may come into play again if a summer vacancy needs filling (e.g. if France cancels again).

  7. When Liberty’s published their original 2021 calendar, they stuffed most of the venues in the last third of the season.
    In the 3 months of spring there were supposed to be held just 6 GPs, while in the 3 months of autumn (+early December) there were supposed to be held 10.
    I get why they did that, in spring there is still a lot of uncertainty in terms of the pandemic, but it would help if they moved some of the venues that managed to hold races in the “bubble” during the 2020 season, in that period.
    For example they could have scheduled Russia, Spain, Austria, Abu Dhabi, maybe Saudi Arabia, earlier in the season, around late March – mid May along with Bahrain, so as to create more gaps in the calendar and have more options later in the season to reschedule those postponed events that didn’t get to hold races in 2020 (and quite possibly in 2021 as well).

    1. @black Saudi Arabia was only an option for the late-season phase as the track wouldn’t get ready in time for March-April. May starts to become a bit too hot for the Middle Eastern places. Abu Dhabi (reportedly at least) pays to be the one closing seasons. Austria is less favorable in the Northern Hemisphere spring climate-wise compared to summer. These are just some notes I made concerning your suggestion towards the end of your post. I get what you mean, though.

      1. @jerejj First of all, if Liberty decided to plan the calendar according to my plan for example, then they should have done it well in advance before the original draft (because right now no race promoter that stages a race late in the season will willingly give up its spot late in the season, when it would be safer to have a race, for early in the spring when they’ll be forced to stage a no-fans or with very few people race).

        1) The season could start in Bahrain, maybe around mid March. Abu Dhabi could theoreticaly host a race after that but i doubt they’d leave the season finale slot.
        2) Saudi Arabia is supposed to be a street track, much like Albert Park. So it probably needs about 2-3 months in advance to build it (assuming they had already decided on a layout and had made the neccesary plans). I get they will probably want their first race to be spectacular, late in the season, with crowds, but generally speaking if they had to stage a back-to-back with Bahrain in late March, they could have done it, if it was planned that way.
        3) Spain could have moved around early April, Barcelona is perfectly fine at that time of the year.
        4-5) Algarve and/or Imola could fill the TBC slot right after Spain to form a double/triple-header.
        6) Sochi could host the race in late-April, they have done it before.
        7) Austria could be held in early May, as they did back in 2001-2003.

        …and then the normal calendar would continue with Monaco in mid-late May etc.
        By filling the gaps from those races (for example, in the original Austria spot in July, Zandvoort fills in and creates a gap in September, etc…) you could “create” a few openings later in the season for Australia, China and any other flyaway race that comes up.

        But as I said at this stage with the calendar already drafted, I doubt any race promoter, like Russia for example, would give up its September, COVID-free spot to stage another no-crowd or with a few fans race…

        1. @black Fair enough. Just one little note: The Russian GP wasn’t a no-crowd race last year, and the number of people attending was surprisingly high at around 20.000, IIRC. Nevertheless, bringing it forward by close to five months would decrease its chances of happening with attendance or even at all, so yes, they indeed wouldn’t be willing to make a sacrifice like this.
          Getting the Jeddah street circuit ready in time (under COVID conditions) for the early-season phase would’ve been difficult even with your alternative planning, though.

    2. @black The main reason why there’s so much weight at the back half of the season is vaccination. It’s anticipated that travel will be safer them, meaning a) less chance of races scheduled for autumn needing to be moved/cancelled, leading to fewer total cancellations and b) more chance of limited spectator counts being permitted for at least some of them. If it turns out some venues can host earlier, that might be appreciated, but the plan is being framed to try to minimise the number of changes needed to make a viable, global calendar.

      Jeddah is already planned to be back-to-back with Abu Dhabi, so moving it to be back-to-back with Bahrain would not help it logistically, and it would be too late to pair it with Bahrain even if they got word they were doing so today (they’d have needed to know last month or possibly even November). Sochi is probably in a better position to host a double-header with Bahrain, if that’s the direction one is going.

      Spain is likely to still be recovering from lockdown in early April (and I have my doubts whether Algarve will be possible either, unlike Imola).

      1. @alianora-la-canta Even November wouldn’t have been enough as a first-time track (street or permanent) requires greater lead time than two to two and a half months.

  8. China is not letting hundreds or thousands of people from the worst virus hit region in the world. Same for the Asian races, Australia won’t go ahead.

    I doubt most of the races in the Americas go ahead even though they are just as bad at containing the virus as Europeans. The distance involved increases the chances of team crews getting infected.

    The more travel involved to reach a venue the greater chance of a mass outbreak within a team or teams and having an entire race weekend and subsequent weekends cancelled.

    1. @Dean F The races in the Americas (bar Canada) aren’t due until late in the year, so too early to write them off this far in advance.

  9. If there are reasons to be grateful for covid, F1 racing at Imola is one of them.

    1. Russel getting a chance to prove he’s a top driver at mercedes is a 2nd reason!

    2. Really? On what basis, totally unsuited to these f1 cars.

      People watch to much ‘Senna’ the movie I think.

  10. In today’s daily press briefing where a new 4-week long province-wide curfew was announced, Premier Legault (Quebec), started by saying he hoped we would be allowed to start seeing friends and extended family again in December 2021.
    If my friends and I (and everyone else of course) are not allowed to attend the Montreal Grand Prix in June because strict COVID restrictions remain in place, I doubt the race will go forward — without a crowd, there’s no government funding and it is no longer financially viable.

    1. @X1Znet You’re right. I struggle to imagine Canada allowing a race to proceed in Montreal at such close quarters to millions of semi-locked-down people, when the messaging that’s being given is that severe for such a long time. While I suspect the Premier is giving a cautious timeline and hoping to be able to deliver something better, it would be folly to assume said improvement will occur.

  11. Please get rid of Jeddah circuit.

    1. @IMOLAFTW You won’t know for certain how it’s going to go before a single millimeter of that track has been driven in an F1 car.

      1. I think it’ll last 2 years.

    2. Let’s wait until we know whether getting there is even possible, before worrying about artificial methods of getting rid of the track…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments are moderated. See the Comment Policy and FAQ for more.
If the person you're replying to is a registered user you can notify them of your reply using '@username'.