LONDON – The start of the Formula One season has been delayed after the Australian Grand Prix was postponed from March to November because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Australian race in Melbourne has been rescheduled from March 21 to November 21. The Chinese GP has also been delayed but no new date has been set for the race. Strict travel restrictions for the pandemic make Australia and China among the hardest countries for F1 teams to enter.
The season will start with the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 28 at Sakhir, less than four months after the same venue held two races as part of the 2020 season.
A race has been added at the Imola track in Italy on April 18, a week after the scheduled date for the Chinese Grand Prix. There is a vacant slot May 2.
Postponing the Australian GP also means pushing back the end of the season in Abu Dhabi by a week to December 12.
The pandemic has disrupted the F1 season two years running. Last year’s race in Australia was canceled after one team member tested positive for the coronavirus. Fans were preparing to enter the circuit at the time for Friday practice.
That started a cascade of postponements and cancelations which meant the rescheduled 2020 season didn’t start until July. There was a compressed 17-race schedule through December with all races in Europe or the Middle East.