Chinese GP may be pushed back

Pandemic hits start of F1 season, with opener in Bahrain after Aussie race moved to tail end

The start of the Australian Grand Prix - the traditional season opener - in Melbourne in March 2018. Last year's race was cancelled owing to Covid-19 and will be run only in the latter stages of this season.
The start of the Australian Grand Prix - the traditional season opener - in Melbourne in March 2018. Last year's race was cancelled owing to Covid-19 and will be run only in the latter stages of this season.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Organisers of the Chinese Grand Prix say they have asked Formula One management to move the Shanghai race from April to later in the 2021 calendar, Motorsport.com has reported.

"We have been in contact (with F1) via conference call almost every week," Yang Yibin, the general manager of race promoter Juss Event, was quoted as saying by the website.

"Despite the calendar being in place as usual, I think it's hugely uncertain the F1 race would take place in the first half of the year, in April. We aim to swop it to the second half of the year, and we have formally submitted the request that we hope to move it to the second half of the year."

Aston Martin team owner Lawrence Stroll said last week that agreement had already been reached to postpone the Australian Grand Prix to the back end of the season, with Bahrain, scheduled for March 28, replacing it as the opening race due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The sport saw many races cancelled last year due to the crisis, with the race calendar eventually reduced from 22 rounds to 17 across Europe and the Middle East and some circuits, including Bahrain, Britain and Austria, hosting two Grands Prix.

F1 announced its 2021 calendar in November featuring a record 23 rounds. To date, the 2019 season with 21 races remains the most held in a single season.

Given the pandemic, most observers believe that F1 is being overly ambitious by attempting to break that record, with Haas team principal Guenther Steiner fearing the first half of the upcoming season will be disrupted.

"While it looks likely that Australia will be postponed, I think the Bahrain race will happen," he told PlanetF1.com. "What comes after, I have no idea.

"At the moment, it's very difficult for me to understand what's happening in China, so I think there will be a difficult beginning of the season.

"Maybe I'm being pessimistic, but I think we'll have to deal with that for the first six months of the year.

"After that, I hope we can see the influence of the vaccines and things should be more solid and more predictable.

"But for the first six months, I think it will be a little bit like last year was."

China, which is the host of the 2022 Winter Olympics, has either cancelled or rescheduled most global sporting events since the start of the pandemic, and should the Shanghai race be postponed, its staging may come at the expense of other events.

"To move it to the second half of the year, it depends on the plan of the city government," Yang added. "If we put all international events to the second half of the year, it will be over the capacity for the city."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2021, with the headline 'Chinese GP may be pushed back'. Subscribe