The 2021 Formula 1 season will start with races in Bahrain and Imola after the postponement of Australia and China was confirmed.
An original 23-race calendar approved last year featured the usual season-opener in Melbourne before heading to Bahrain, with China third on the schedule and a to-be-confirmed event to replace Vietnam. However, with ongoing uncertainty regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia has been postponed until later in the season and Bahrain becomes the first round.
F1 has already found Australia a new date later in the year; the Melbourne round moving to November 21 ahead of the final double-header in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi on December 5-12. That has been made possible by moving Brazil a week earlier to November 7 in order to form a triple-header with the United States and Mexico.
Those changes make for an increasingly intense second half of the season, with three consecutive triple-headers of Spa/Zandvoort/Monza, Sochi/Singapore/Suzuka and Austin/Mexico/Brazil before the sole standalone event of the second half of the year in Melbourne.
While Australia’s slot is to be confirmed by the FIA World Motor Sport Council, China looks unlikely to happen in 2021. F1 will evaluate opportunities to reschedule the race, but with the packed schedule there is no space to add it. In its place is another return to Imola, which stepped up last year to host the second round of the season on April 18.
The later start to the year – Bahrain takes place on March 28 – means the third round has been pushed back by a week to May 2 in order to form a double-header with Barcelona. This is likely to be a return for Portimao, as the two are logistically close and the sport will have already returned to Europe, where it was able to carry out the majority of its season last year.
Pre-season testing is now likely to take place in Bahrain in mid-March ahead of the opening round, having previously been scheduled for Barcelona.