The 2021 Formula 1 season-opening Australian Grand Prix is set to be postponed, according to reports from Autosport and Sky Sports F1.
The Albert Park race in Melbourne’s city centre was cancelled last year, triggering the start of a new coronavirus-induced calendar.
This year’s event was set to kick off a record 23-race 2021 season on March 21.
However, the recent New South Wales outbreak has seen neighbouring states enforce strict travel and quarantine measures.
Having declared itself free of the virus late last year, yesterday Victoria confirmed 24 community transmission cases with rising fear of the state entering another lockdown.
The Bahrain Grand Prix, set for March 28, is now poised to replace Australia as the season-opener.
Victoria has re-opened sporting events to the public, albeit with limited crowd sizes.
The Boxing Day Test match against India at the MCG was only permitted 30 per cent capacity, while the state government is planning to have 50 per cent capacity at February’s Australian Open tennis tournament.
Players, officials and necessary personnel for the Open will all be required to quarantine for 14-days.
It is believed F1 would be subject to the same rules – and a Grand Prix would be unviable in those circumstances.
A two-week quarantine for all 1500 travelling F1 personnel would require them to fly-out to Australia three weeks before the race date. But F1’s three-day pre-season test is currently slated for March 2-4.
Construction of the circuit typically begins at the end of the month. Now it requires any non-Victorian contractors to travel to the state and self-isolate for two weeks.
Tickets are also not currently on sale.
“It hasn’t been postponed yet – and I don’t expect an official announcement today or in the next few days,” said Sky Sports News’ Craig Slater.
“But one insider has told me that it is impossible that it can take place under the current Covid restrictions in force in Australia.”
The emergence of a new strain of the virus in the UK – where seven teams are based – has also seen several countries tighten their restrictions on travelers returning from the Great Britain.
When drafting the 23-race calendar, F1 was confident Australia would open the new season in March.
Now the sport must locate a new date for the Australian race or cancel the event for the second year in a row.
Given how congested the schedule already is, finding an appropriate new slot for the race later in the season would likely force a significant reshuffle of the new calendar.
A revised date for the Australian Grand Prix is only feasible after the summer break, of which there are five free weekends.
For the Supercars Championship, it is understood Sandown has been earmarked as a replacement venue for Albert Park should the Grand Prix be postponed.