An Australian minister has confirmed the 2021 Australian Grand Prix was postponed due to the ongoing need for a 14-day quarantine period.
Following weeks of rumours, it was announced on Tuesday that for the second year running Melbourne will not host the season opener, with Bahrain on March 28 assuming that status, and instead the race will be postponed until November 21.
The decision was made in light of the current coronavirus regulations currently in place in the area.
If the GP had gone ahead in March as originally planned, F1 drivers, team staff and anyone else involved in the race weekend would all have had to face a strict 14-day quarantine, which Martin Pakula, Sports and Tourism Minister of the Victorian government, says would not have been feasible.
The Australian Open is set to take place in February though, and around 1,500 people are set to be restricted to their hotel rooms for 14 days and not allowed to mix with anyone outside of the event’s bubble – apart from the tennis players, who will be allowed to practice for five hours a day.
“Tennis has been able to do that…but it’s not something that has been possible for Formula 1,” said Pakula, quoted by RaceFans.
Admittedly, things would be very different in Formula 1 than tennis. Ahead of the opening race weekend, it would be near impossible for teams to prepare their cars and their drivers if consigned to their hotel rooms for long periods.
That was a major consideration when making the decision, according to Australian Grand Prix Corporation chief executive Andrew Westacott.
Eurosport quote Westacott as saying: “When you look at the arrangements of setting up very big businesses and the logistics and challenges they face coming into a new season, it wasn’t possible to have them operate in a strict quarantine arrangement.”
2021 CALENDAR UPDATE
🇧🇭 Season starts in Bahrain 26-28 Mar
🇦🇺 Australia moves to 19-21 Nov
🇮🇹 Imola returns 16-18 Apr; China discussions ongoing
— Formula 1 (@F1) January 12, 2021
Despite the GP now having been forced to vacate its usual spot in both 2020 and 2021, Pakula stated Melbourne is focused on wanting the race to return as the season opener in 2022.
“It’s not forever,” he said. “We’ll be certainly very keen to go back to our traditional season-opening slot in 2022.”
They also believe they have made absolutely the right decision when it comes to giving themselves 10 months to host the grand prix, with the hope that the world will be in a much better and safer place come November.
“One of the beauties of buying yourself 10 months is that I suspect things will look different in November to how they look in January,” said Pakula.
“The Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix is one of the great events in the world and we’ll make sure it can be run safely and successfully in November.”