Start, Imola, 2020

Official: Australian and Chinese GPs postponed, Bahrain and Imola to open season

2021 F1 season

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The 2021 F1 season will begin later than planned due to logistical complications arising from the Covid-19 pandemic, the championship has confirmed.

As RaceFans revealed previously, the Australian and Chinese grands prix will not go ahead on their originally scheduled dates. Albert Park and Shanghai International Circuit were due to hold the first and third rounds respectively on the 2021 F1 calendar. Their postponements means the Bahrain Grand Prix, scheduled for March 28th, will become the new season-opener.

Formula 1 confirmed the delays to both races today while also revealing details of an addition to the 2021 calendar. As revealed here last week, F1 will return to Imola on April 18th for the second race of the new season.

This race will serve as a replacement for the Chinese Grand Prix, though Shanghai’s round of the championship may yet be rescheduled. As previously reported, the delayed Australian Grand Prix will now take place in November and other races have been moved to accommodate this. Brazil’s round of the world championship has been brought forward by a week and the subsequent races in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi will take place one weekend later than originally planned.

F1 maintains it will run a record-breaking 23-race calendar as it announced last year. A venue will be announced for the ‘TBC’ round of its championship originally scheduled for April 25th, which has now been moved back a week to May 2nd. The Autodromo do Algarve in Portugal is expected to hold this race, but no official announcement has yet been made.

This change, and all other revisions to the calendar announced today, require the approval of the FIA World Motor Sports Council.

“The global pandemic has not yet allowed life to return to normal,” said new Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali, “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.

“We are very excited to announce that Imola will return for the 2021 season and know our fans will be looking forward to the return of Formula 1 after the winter break and our revised season opener in Bahrain. Obviously, the virus situation remains fluid, but we have the experience from last season with all our partners and promoters to adapt accordingly and safely in 2021.”

Australian Grand Prix Corporation chairman Paul Little said he was pleased an agreement had been reached to delay their race by eight months. “This wouldn’t have been possible without the strong support of the Victorian Government and Formula 1,” he said.

“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.”

Other championships have already confirmed delays arising from the pandemic. Formula E’s season-opening race in Chile, which was due to take place this weekend, has been delayed and the championship will instead begin in Saudi Arabia next month. IndyCar has also postponed its first race of 2021 which was due to take place in St Petersburg on March 7th.

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Revised 2021 F1 calendar

Round Circuit Date
1 Bahrain International Circuit Mar 26-28
2 Imola Apr 16-18
3 TBC Apr 30-May 2
4 Circuit de Catalunya May 7-9
5 Monaco May 20-23
6 Baku City Circuit Jun 4-6
7 Circuit Gilles Villeneuve Jun 11-13
8 Paul Ricard Jun 25-27
9 Red Bull Ring Jul 2-4
10 Silverstone Jul 16-18
11 Hungaroring Jul 30-Aug 1
12 Spa-Francorchamps Aug 27-29
13 Zandvoort Sep 3-5
14 Monza Sep 10-12
15 Sochi Autodrom Sep 24-26
16 Singapore Oct 1-3
17 Suzuka Oct 8-10
18 Circuit of the Americas Oct 22-24
19 Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez Oct 29-31
20 Interlagos Nov 5-7
21 Albert Park Nov 19-21
22 Jeddah Dec 3-5
23 Yas Marina Dec 10-12

This article will be updated.

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Author information

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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58 comments on “Official: Australian and Chinese GPs postponed, Bahrain and Imola to open season”

  1. “Boring Name And Too Long Name” Grand Prix then…
    Bring Nürburgring and Hockenheim back.

    1. @Dave Maybe further into the season if some other events drop out for COVID, such as Monaco and Baku.

  2. China should be a priority over Australia. The track is permanent, which means that rescheduling would be easier than for the latter. Being permanent also means that holding without spectator attendance (if necessary) is also an option. Additionally, the Chinese GP is one of the most lucrative events in F1. Yes, Melbourne is warmer in the third quarter of November than Shanghai, but this is about the only advantage. No space for China as things stand.
    Anyway, Melbourne, should things work out, has to say goodbye to being the season-opener again in the future, unless the temporary structures could stay in place throughout the gap from November to March, which I doubt would be possible.

    I’m surprised Algarve didn’t get confirmed at the same time as Imola. My preference for the weekend before Montmelo would be Jerez merely to give it a chance as well, even if it wouldn’t be any better for the quality of racing.

    1. Given the current situation, I don’t expect races in Australia, Monaco, Azerbaijan, Singapore and maybe even Japan (due to strict restrictions) to go on. China is improbable in my opinion, the rescheduling clearly points to questionable pandemic situation there and the Chinese comrades are doing all in their power to cover it. Hopefully we’ll get to see some of the classic last year tracks in action again.

      1. Japan will hold the Summer Olympics in July/August.
        If they pull that off then getting 10 racing teams in October from just a couple of countries should not a big challenge.

        Or maybe all races should be in Israel; they are well ahead in their vaccination programme.

        1. @coldfly And the UAE…Alternating races using the billion potential layouts at Dubai Autodrome and Yas Marina…

          1. @geemac
            Or rather than alternating, do three weeks in a row.
            If all drivers and staff become resident in week 1 and get vaccinated, then they can get their 2nd shot in week 3.

      2. @pironitheprovocateur At present, Japan has an entry ban for people from more or less every country, but Suzuka’s race isn’t due until nine months from now, so plenty of time for that ban to end by October.
        As for Singapore: Too early to judge as the Singapore GP isn’t due until early-October. Monaco and Baku could be more at risk, but not yet Singapore.
        @coldfly Getting teams to Japan itself wouldn’t be the problem, only if they’re allowed to enter the country in the first place. I like your joke about Israel.

      3. The rescheduling points to China not allowing anyone in without testing AND quarantine. It says nothing about the epidemic in China (which may or may not be worse than they let on)

    2. …jere, you explained exactly why Australia is the priority not Shanghai.

      1. @peartree How? I don’t see any contradiction in my words.

        1. @jerejj you said Aus GP is much harder to organize hence finding a date is far more pertinent than it is for organizing the Chinese GP since the permanent venue does not require nowhere near the same level of preparations. the priority lies on the most difficult GP to save. I would agree with your assesement if finding a date for Aus GP would interfere with the plans to host China but that does not seem to be the case.
          Is China more important than Australia? For f1 yes… but if you have been reading the news, China vs Australia is a big topic.

          1. @peartree Nice double negative there, but otherwise, I see what you mean.

          2. @jerejj “Nowhere” is an adjective I used for emphasis. Jerejj let’s not dwell on details.

    3. There isn’t going to be a race in China.

      They’ve been able to keep the virus out of their country by shutting their borders and having strict quarantine procedures.

      They aren’t about to risk letting the virus loose in their country to host a European motor race.

      It’s insane thinking.

  3. Unsurprising really. Glad the call has been made early. So I’m assuming this will be the first time that the same venue has hosted 3 out of 4 consecutive rounds? Crazy stuff!

  4. I can foresee a lot of divorces happening because of this. Many relationships must be at the limit already, and then with this extended calendar…

    1. @shimks Not everyone in F1 is in a relationship.

      1. We call those people prevorced

  5. Saw that coming with the recent resurgence of COVID infections globally. Good to see Imola back though will still prefer to see Autodromo Do Algarve and Istanbul park back.

    1. @lems Istanbul Park, maybe if some other events drop out for COVID such as Monaco and Baku.

      1. @jerejj Istanbul will be mega without the surface being very smooth from the recent resurfacing. At least it will offer some grip compared to last year. I’l be looking forward to watching a current F1 car going flat out there.

  6. How nice it feels regarding the possibility of having China out of the calendar for a second consecutive year..

    1. Agree, never really liked that venue.

  7. Positive news for the fans, less positive for the revenue. The beginning of the season now seems quite empty. Three weeks between the first two races is quite a gap. However, I don’t think these will be the only vacancies – I don’t see a big chance to hold Monaco or Azerbaijan Grand Prix under these circumstances, and some Asian races might also fall a victim if the global situation won’t allow looser restrictions. Imola and Portimao (expected to join on 2nd May) might only be the beginning and we may see races around Nurburgring, Istanbul or Mugello again.

    1. @pironitheprovocateur I think of the Bahrain-Imola gap as a positive rather than negative considering the travelling teams. Not bad for them, especially now that there’s an additional triple-header because of Australia’s rescheduling. Monaco and Azerbaijan, yes, could be at risk (the same applies to Canada), but judging the Asian races towards the season’s end is a bit premature this far in advance. Time will tell those events’ fates for this year.

  8. 12 races (more than half of the entire calendar) scheduled after the summer break in just 3,5 months !
    9 of them packed in just 11 weekends !

    I feel for the teams and their staff…

    1. @black At least, they get a break of two consecutive weekends without racing after Bahrain.

  9. I’m not ecstatic about Imola but I expect to see Algarve before Spain. Also I would like to see Istanbul/Nürburgring somewhere!

    1. I agree, would make sense to have the TBC race in Portugal now.

      1. @t1redmonkey Or Jerez, but it’ll be Algarve 99% guaranteed.

  10. I wonder what this means for pre-season testing now. It would be very convenient now to hold testing in Bahrain, considering that the season starts there as well, instead of testing at Barcelona and then fly over to Bahrain.

    1. @srga91 I guess you didn’t notice the earlier news. It will indeed take place in Bahrain.

      1. @jerejj
        Thanks mate, didn’t knew that they already did that.

  11. Can’t wait to see Australia and have it actually mean something for the championship!

  12. Good to see reality being applied early given the current global situation.

    Hopefully things will show some sign of improvement at the northern hemisphere moves to spring and summer but it’s going to take time, probably far more than F1, or any major business would like.

    I still expect more disruption to the front half of the season so to continue to be confident about 23 races, to me, is way too optimistic.

  13. Somehow, I feel we will again get a 17 or 18 race season, but spread out across a longer time period. Similar to the early 2000s seasons where one would wait 2-3 whole weeks just to see Michael Schumacher win in a boring race.

    Why don’t they race in blocks. Like a Europe-1 where you have 5, 6 races in 8-10 weeks, then break for a month and start a ‘Middle East block’ where again you do 4-5 races in 6-7 weeks then break again. Then a Europe-2, Americas and Asia.

    The drivers and staff can also go home in the breaks an not be in a bubble for longer time period. I liked the intense nature of the 2020 season but don’t mind it being short intense blocks rather than the entire 17 races being one intense block crammed in 5 months

    1. Why don’t they race in blocks. Like a Europe-1 where you have 5, 6 races in 8-10 weeks, then break for a month and start a ‘Middle East block’ where again you do 4-5 races in 6-7 weeks then break again. Then a Europe-2, Americas and Asia.

      Even without the scheduling nightmare caused by Corona I think this is a great plan.
      Beside limiting travel and time zone changes, it will allow to award sub-championship trophies. Those might be more in demand than the pole position trophy.
      Maybe they can start this year with an Iberian and ‘Low Countries’ trophy.

    2. @sumedh @coldfly
      Holding all North American races consecutive would be viable if Montreal’s climatic conditions were favorable for F1 in the later autumn.

      1. Would be fun having 1 race in snow, won’t it? (as long as it is safe of course).
        F1 in 2020 showed it is open to experiment and we got an almost-oval circuit. We got a race with absolutely no grip.

        Why not a race in bit of snow then?

        1. @sumedh I doubt Pirelli would have enough suitable F1-spec tyres for everyone if at all.

    3. Mercedes have had 71 front row lock out 2014-20.

      Ferrari had 14 front row lock outs 2000-04.

      We all know who is going to win the championship with 100% certainty before preseason testing this year that was never the case in the Ferrari era.

  14. I don’t understand. How hard is it for organization as big as F1 to vaccinated all 2000 crew & drivers?

    1. Then you don’t understand that the approved vaccines in UK/Europe/US (where the teams/personnel come from) are not available on the free market yet. And I doubt that teams/staff want to experiment with non approved vaccines.
      And more importantly, even vaccinated people can still catch the virus and become infectious. We don’t know how infectious, but it seems to be a reduction of merely 30%.

      Thus don’t expect that Corona free/light countries will be very keen on allowing teams in even when their staff is vaccinated.

    2. @ruliemaulana it has been repeatedly pointed out that F1 personnel are not a priority in most countries and won’t get any sort of preferential treatment.

      The current vaccine rollout programme is intended to prioritise those who are in the most vulnerable categories, such as older individuals or those with underlying medical conditions, and also those who work in critical infrastructure or frontline medical occupations.

      With supplies of vaccines being stretched on a global scale because of logistical issues (the availability of glass vials has become a particular bottleneck, for example), F1 personnel are no more important than any other member of the public and won’t be given any sort of priority. Furthermore, as ColdFly notes, most of those vaccines are currently not available for commercial sale because of the logistical issues and the demand for vaccines to protect those who are in those more vulnerable categories.

  15. Josh (@canadianjosh)
    12th January 2021, 11:09

    I don’t mean to be a downer but probably a quarter or more of that schedule won’t happen this year barring major covid improvements. The US is as bad as it’s been, and Canada is getting so bad that we’re starting curfews on top of a lockdown. Mexico is also bad.

    1. @canadianjosh The good thing for the US and Mexico is that their races aren’t due until the latter half of October anyway, so lead time-wise, they at least have a greater chance of happening than Canada.

      1. Josh (@canadianjosh)
        12th January 2021, 22:54

        The US has the highest case count in the world and add that with being the laughing stock of the world they shouldn’t go there.

    2. 4-week curfew just started in Quebec on the weekend, I don’t see Montreal having a race this year again.

  16. I was wondering why they don’t do a Bahrain GP and Sakhir GP double again, to start the season, but I suppose they don’t want to start the 2021 season with people immediately thinking it will be the same as last year. And with 4 out of 5 consecutive races in Bahrain, as someone pointed out.

    On the other hand if some other races drop out (from Asia and the Americas), they can always have a Sakhir GP before Australia (if that happens) or before Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.
    I just hope we don’t get two Silverstones, or two Austrian GP’s or something like that again.

    If we do end up having a double race at one track, with same layout, which race would you like to see that at? Maybe this could be a racefans poll.

    1. Double races at the same track are necessary evil for me. Two different layout at Sakhir felt unique and interesting, I would go for the same option at other tracks where it’s possible.

    2. @macaque @pironitheprovocateur
      Too early to start resorting to such measures as racing in the same place twice in the same season. Only as a last resort thing should a minimum of 15 races (for TV broadcasting reasons) be difficult to achieve otherwise.

      1. @jerejj @pironitheprovocateur
        I think having double races at the same track (again) would not be great for F1’s image, but if it is necessary, and it might, I hope Liberty is already drawing up these contingency plans. They should have tracks in mind for these double races, they should already have back-up tracks in mind, and particular weekends for these – and reasonable pairings for double and triple-headers with already scheduled races. They should have these contingency plans before the start of the season.
        Of course, we won’t know about these until it’s necessary for them to announce them.

  17. Imola is a boring tight track not helpful for overtaking. Mugello is much better and should replace it.

    1. @amg44 I also prefer Mugello over Imola, but it isn’t necessarily any better for overtaking or quality of racing. I like the lap flow very much, though. Enjoyable to drive.

  18. The European leg is very uninspiring.

  19. Glad they announced the cancellation officially without leading us on further. Disappointed for the lack of income for everyone involved.

    Whether Melbourne goes ahead now will be purely determined by how quick we can get a vaccine rolled out so we can get rid of the two week quarantine period by then, otherwise it will be the same story in November…

    1. As Danny Ric would say, don’t bet your left or right one on that!!
      Seriously, all GPs in Oct/Nov look v-e-r-y dodgy, + Monaco & Baku.

      I’ll wait till that vaccine has proven itself.
      Re-iterate, 2020 will be continued in 2021, and very well 2022.

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