Formula 1 has announced that races in Australia and China have been postponed, with the 2021 season to now begin in Bahrain on March 28.
The F1 season traditionally gets underway in Melbourne but Australia will now play host on November 21 amid ongoing COVID-19-related travel restrictions in the country.
The Chinese Grand Prix will also not take place on its planned date but F1 has not detailed when any rescheduled event would be held. Discussions with the promoter and authorities in China are ongoing and F1 said there is potential to reschedule the Chinese Grand Prix for later in the season “if possible”.
The 23-race calendar also retains a spot for the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona after F1 signed a renewed agreement with the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. The Spanish Grand Prix will take place on May 9 and the Catalan racetrack will continue working with F1 on a new long-term agreement during the upcoming season.
Imola in Italy has also returned to the calendar and will stage the second event of the season on April 18. The May 2 slot has been reserved for a TBC event, which is expected to be held in Portugal.
After the Spanish Grand Prix, F1 will head to Monaco, Azerbaijan, Canada, France, Austria, UK, Hungary, Belgium and the Netherlands before a second Italian event of the season on September 12 in Monza.
Further events will then be held in Russia, Singapore, Japan, USA, Mexico and Brazil before the rescheduled Australian Grand Prix on November 21. Saudi Arabia will then host its first-ever F1 event on December 5, with the season once again concluding in Abu Dhabi on December 12.
F1 said it expects fans to return to the grandstands and its exclusive Paddock Club for the 2021 season after the majority of last year’s races were held behind closed doors.
Stefano Domenicali, president and chief executive of F1, said: “It has been a busy start to the year at Formula 1 and we are pleased to confirm that the number of races planned for the season remains unchanged.
“The global pandemic has not yet allowed life to return to normal, but we showed in 2020 that we can race safely as the first international sport to return and we have the experience and plans in place to deliver on our season.
“It is great news that we have already been able to agree a rescheduled date for the Australian Grand Prix in November and are continuing to work with our Chinese colleagues to find a solution to race there in 2021 if something changes.
“We are very excited to announce that Imola will return for the 2021 season and know our fans will be looking forward to the return of Formula 1 after the winter break and our revised season opener in Bahrain. Obviously, the virus situation remains fluid, but we have the experience from last season with all our partners and promoters to adapt accordingly and safely in 2021.”