Organisers of the Australian Grand Prix insist Melbourne will retain its traditional March slot as the opening round of the 2021 Formula 1 season.

The Albert Park circuit was scheduled to hold the first race of the original 2020 F1 calendar, but the event was abandoned at the 11th hour following an outbreak of coronavirus in the Melbourne paddock.

Having been officially cancelled along with the other opening nine rounds that formed the initial schedule, there have been suggestions that next year’s Australian Grand Prix could be moved amid extremely harsh travel restrictions due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns.

According to the speculation, a ‘leaked calendar’ showed that Bahrain would have been brought forward to host the curtain-raiser in March instead of Australia, with the Melbourne race pushed back until October.

But in a statement issued to the Nine Network’s Wide World of Sports, Australian Grand Prix Corporation CEO Andrew Westacott revealed Melbourne will stage the opening round as planned.

"Melbourne will again host the F1 season opener in the traditional March time slot, which will form a significant part of the recovery of the major sports and events industry in Victoria,’ Westacott said.

F1 CEO Chase Carey has said the championship is currently working on finalising a calendar that will look “closer to normal” after the disruption caused to the 2020 schedule led to the season being predominantly European-based.

Extra races were added at the Red Bull Ring, Silverstone, Italy, Germany, Turkey, Portual and Bahrain to replace cancelled rounds in Asia and the Americas and help form a 17-round world championship season.

It is understood that the 2021 F1 calendar will feature a minimum of 22 races and include at least one new addition, most likely to be a street race in Saudi Arabia.

 

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