Formula 1 fans rejoice; the Australian Grand Prix will go ahead this year, with news from the Victorian government resting fears the race might be cancelled altogether.
It says after discussion between itself, Formula 1 management and the Grand Prix Corporation, the Australian GP will remain on the 2021 Formula 1 calendar and run over November 19-21 instead of opening the season.
But the one-off date in some ways could also be a stay of execution, as the event will remain “subject to prevailing public health conditions and advice from the Chief Health Officer” according to the Premier office's statement.
While there are also no guarantees the travel restrictions between Australian states will be fluid enough to allow fans to travel to the event – or indeed whether the event itself could even host spectators, the decision allows more breathing space for the possibility of attendance.
Quarantine arrangements and further details will be confirmed in due course.
At the same time, Formula 1 has said the Melbourne GP is “subject to World Motor Sport Council approval”.
F1 has also announced the full 2021 calendar which places the Melbourne based Grand Prix third last in the season line-up.
It’ll be followed the Jeddah GP in Saudi Arabia and then Abu Dhabi on December 5 and 12 respectively.
The calendar remains remarkably intact given the circumstances with 23 races planned. In other news, it will see a Netherlands GP return at the Zandervoort track and Imola re-introduced before what could be the Chinese GP – talks are still taking place on the race's viability.
The Bahrain Grand Prix, set down for March 28, will take the place of Melbourne, which saw extraordinary scenes last year when the race was cancelled just hours before first practise after McLaren team members were diagnosed with the virus.
The coronavirus ripples then expanded, with most forms of racing delayed until the middle of the year.
F1 managed to throw together a truncated season that concluded in Abu Dhabi in December.
It would have been a rush to have the things ready for March, as ticket sales had not yet commenced, while building works to convert the Albert Park precinct into a racing track would have needed to kick off in the next three weeks in order to be completed by the March 21 deadline.
Several drivers – including world champion Sir Lewis Hamilton – and team members contracted COVID-19 during 2020, despite F1’s best efforts to operate in a ‘travel bubble’ mode while racing.
A small outbreak in NSW that has spread to Victoria has seen the borders between the east coast states slammed shut with just 24 hours’ notice, while anyone who does gain access to Victoria will be required to isolate in quarantine for 14 days.