Sebastian Vettel thinks the opening part of the 2021 F1 schedule could still be impacted by the global health pandemic.
In March this year, the season-opening Australian Grand Prix was cancelled on the Friday morning before FP1 after a McLaren team member had tested positive for COVID-19 the previous evening.
As the pandemic took an increasing grip on the world, the start of the Formula 1 campaign was postponed until July with 17 races shoehorned into the second half of the calendar year.
A provisional schedule for 2021 has been issued with a record 23 races, due to begin as usual in Australia on March 21 before heading to Bahrain and China.
Vettel, asked whether a 23-event schedule risked saturation point, told Motorsport Week: “Well obviously we’re not going 23 times to the same place because then I would say definitely yes.
“But it’s a World Championship and it’s held around the world so probably not, but then again we have a large following not just on track but also on the screens.
“I think far more important is whether the teams will be able to make 23 races because it’s quite a bit of an effort. It’s not just the one-and-a-half hours you see on a Sunday, it’s a lot more work behind the scenes.
“Then the other one, even before that, is what type of beginning of the season we will have and how long the situation around the pandemic will last.
“I think that will dictate also next year’s calendar and probably at least the start of the season.
“We all hope by then we are back to normal, people are allowed to come to the races etc and we can focus on the racing again.”
A major factor in how closely the season can follow its intended schedule, and especially with large attendances, is the proposed roll-out of vaccines for COVID-19 which appears to be getting close, depending on regulatory approval.
In addition, strict entry restrictions remain in place in Victoria, the Australian state in which Melbourne’s Albert Park, home of the grand prix, is located.
The Australian Open tennis tournament, currently scheduled to take place in Melbourne from January 18-31, may be postponed as authorities continue to discuss issues regarding arrival times for players – who are currently not permitted to enter the country until January 1, leaving no time to serve a mandatory 14-day quarantine and play a warm-up event.