Formula 1’s 2021 season is still set to start in Australia despite the COVID-19 pandemic, while a new street race in Saudi Arabia is also likely to join the calendar.
The 2020 season schedule had to be completely revised due to COVID, with the championship only officially starting in Austria in early July with back-to-back races at the Red Bull Ring. An initial attempt to start 2020 in Melbourne as planned was cancelled on the Friday of the race weekend after a McLaren team member tested positive for the virus, and led to the sport going into shutdown as the world dealt with the global outbreak.
Now a 17-race schedule has been finalized that will end in Abu Dhabi on December 13, attention has turned to the 2021 plans that still prove extremely challenging due to the uncertainty of the COVID situation moving forward.
Australia enacted extremely harsh travel restrictions to control the virus, and currently only returning Australian citizens, residents and those with special permissions are allowed into the country. The majority have to quarantine for two weeks, and there is a limit of 4,000 people per week who can enter, but the restrictions have not stopped plans to start the 2021 season in its traditional location of Melbourne.
Albert Park is due to kick-off a 22-race calendar — the same amount of races that were originally on this year’s schedule — with RACER understanding at least one new addition is likely to be added in the form of a street race in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, late in the year. There has been an increase in Saudi investment in the sport in recent years, including the arrival of energy company Aramco as a global partner and race sponsor this season.
Plans for the 2021 calendar remain provisional due to the COVID-19 situation, with increasing numbers of cases in Europe seeing further restrictions introduced in many countries — including the UK where F1 is based — in recent weeks.