Australia is set to retain its valuable position in the 2021 Formula 1 calendar with Melbourne expected to host the season-opener in March.
The 2020 season was thrown into chaos when a McLaren team member tested positive for COVID-19 just hours before Friday practice at the Australian Grand Prix.
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The opening ten races of the season were then cancelled before a redesigned 17 race season began in July, with six races remaining.
F1 chief Chase Carey said last week the organisation is ‘pretty close’ to finalising its 2021 calendar. Now the head of Australia’s Grand Prix body, Andrew Westacott, has confirmed Melbourne will retain its coveted season-opening slot.
“The Australian Grand Prix Corporation is in regular dialogue with Formula 1 on the 2021 provisional calendar, which will be published in the coming weeks,” Westacott, Australian Grand Prix Corporation CEO, told Sky Sports in a statement.
“Melbourne will again host the F1 season opener in the traditional March timeslot, which will form a significant part of the recovery of the major sports and events industry in Victoria.”
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This year’s calendar was centred around Europe, with the American legs of the tour cancelled, as was a potential debut of a Vietnamese Grand Prix on a new Hanoi track.
Vietnam and Saudi Arabia could both host maiden races in 2021, while this year’s mooted return to the Netherlands could also be included next year.
“At this point we are pretty close to having a calendar for 2021,” said F1 CEO Chase Carey last week on F1’s Beyond the Grid podcast.
“We have got a couple of issues to resolve. Clearly, we are later in the process because the issues around 2020 we have only recently resolved, so those things have created delays in getting it out.
“But we are going to plan for a 2021 calendar that looks pretty much like a normal calendar, like a calendar we would have planned in January. What we don’t really know is what will be the state of Covid next year and how we navigate through it.”
Meanwhile, the number of spectators at this weekend’s Formula One Portuguese Grand Prix has been cut following a spike in coronavirus cases in the country, organisers said on Tuesday.
“As a result of new measures against COVID-19, health authorities have decided on limitations regarding the presence of spectators,” said the Algarve International Circuit which is set to host Sunday’s race.
The statement did not say how much attendance would be cut.
Portugal is facing an increase in the number of daily virus cases, which reached a record on Friday with 2,608 new infections in 24 hours.
On Monday, the country broke the 100,000 barrier for the number of cases since the start of the pandemic.
On Sunday, circuit manager Paulo Pinheiro said that the capacity of the track would be 27,500 after having initially put nearly 46,000 tickets on sale.
Those who are present will see Lewis Hamilton attempt to break Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 Grand Prix wins after equalling that tally at the Eifel GP earlier this month.