The start of the 2021 Formula One season has been delayed following the postponement of the Australian Grand Prix. That was due to be staged at Albert Park in Melbourne on the weekend of 19 to 21 March, but now will be held in November instead.
In addition, the race in China that was due to take place three weeks later has also been postponed, although no new date for that has yet been announced.
It means that the season will now begin in Bahrain on 26th March, just four months after the circuit there staged two races.
In the slot vacated by the Chinese Grand Prix, a race has been inserted in Imola, Italy. One of the traditional venues of the sport, Imola staged its first race since 2006 last season.
The reason for the postponement is the global pandemic and the measures adopted by the Australian and Chinese governments to combat it, which are some of the strongest around. They require all new arrivals into their countries to undergo a mandatory quarantine period before they are allowed to move around freely, and that is incompatible with the nature of Formula One.
Despite the sport creating a bio-secure bubble around it, Formula One relies on the ten teams and all their support personnel moving from race to race around the world. They do not have the time or resource to have their personnel tied-up in self isolation for weeks on end.
Postponing the races buys time for the measures to be relaxed, and for mass vaccination programmes to be rolled-out or a combination of both.
The third race of the season is yet to be confirmed, but it is expected to take place at Portimao in Portugal, which made its debut on the Formula One calendar in 2020 and proved to be a success with all the drivers.
To accommodate the rescheduling of the Australian Grand Prix, the dates for the races in Brazil, Saudi Arabia, and Abu Dhabi have all been moved.