F1 season to start in Bahrain with Chinese, Australian events postponed

Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas, leads his teammate Lewis Hamilton and the rest of the pack during the start of the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix in Melbourne Australia. The start of the 2021 Formula One season

The 2021 season will now begin a week later than planned, with the Bahrain Grand Prix scheduled for March 28.

The Formula 1 2021 calendar has been reshuffled with two of the planned first three races no longer taking place on their original dates, as Bahrain gets set to host the season-opener at the end of March followed by the return of Imola.

Quarantine and other aspects of the Grand Prix will be considered at a later date.

F1 officials have been forced into action with strict coronavirus travel restrictions in place in both countries.

F1 still plans to hold a record 23 races this year, although a venue for the third race of the season, on 2 May, has yet to be confirmed.

Australia now has very low rates of the coronavirus, but with cases increasing elsewhere, officials asked for the race to be pushed back to later in the year.

The third slot on May 2 has yet to be confirmed but is expected to be filled by Portugal's Algarve circuit, which debuted past year. F1 bosses are in discussions with Chinese authorities and promoters "with the potential to reschedule the race later in the season if possible". F1 said in a statement.

As such, the 2021 schedule will look different to the one originally announced by F1 back in November, with Imola making an unexpected return to the calendar, having filled in as an additional race on the re-written 2020 calendar.

Martin Pakula, the minister for tourism and major events in the Victorian state government which backs the Melbourne race, said it was a sensible decision which potentially could mean worldwide fans attending - if Australia's borders reopen in time.

"This is the right decision and we thank Formula 1 management for their co-operation in setting a new schedule for the 2021 season".

The Victorian Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events, Martin Pakula, said the decision reached between the state government, Formula 1 management and the Australian Grand Prix Corporation was sensible one because of the difficulties posed by the COVID pandemic.

The pandemic has disrupted the F1 season for a second year.

None of the American races happened past year due to the pandemic while the Netherlands, Singapore and Japan were also cancelled.

That started a cascade of postponements and cancellations which meant the rescheduled 2020 season didn't start until July. Fans were preparing to enter the circuit for Friday practice when organizers announced the cancellation.

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