New Melbourne Grand Prix date revealed
The Melbourne Grand Prix will be staged eight months later than scheduled as the coronavirus pandemic puts the brakes on the major event for the second straight year.
The Formula One event will be moved from March to November, with F1 officials confirming the Albert Park race would be shuffled from its coveted position as season opener.
The event was meant to be held from March 18-21 but will now slide to November 18-21, in a move to protect public health.
Formula One Management on Tuesday night confirmed the shake up, citing "continuing international travel disruptions and other matters related to coronavirus''.
"The ongoing situation regarding COVID-19 has meant it is not feasible to begin the season in Melbourne," it said in a statement.
Sources told the Herald Sun the move was because F1 chiefs could not reach an agreement with the Andrews Government over quarantine arrangements for drivers and team staff from around the world.
Sports Minister Martin Pakula said it was "the right decision''.
"The Australian Grand Prix is one of the great events in the world and we'll make sure it can be run safely and successfully in November,'' he said.
As some of the world's best tennis players prepare to quarantine in Melbourne ahead of next month's Australian Open, F1 teams baulked at calls for drivers and staff to isolate for 14 days.
Formula 1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali said the global pandemic has not yet allowed life to return to normal'' but the sport was committed to safely stating the 2021 season.
"It is great news that we have already been able to agree a rescheduled date for the Australian Grand Prix in November,'' he said.
Melbourne has held the F1 season opener since 2011 but Australian Grand Prix Corporation chairman Paul Little said moving the race later in the year could build excitement.
"As the third-last race of the season, this provides the opportunity to safely host what could
be the championship-decider in Melbourne in the lead-in to summer,'' he said.
Last year's Melbourne Grand Prix was called off before an F1 car even took to the track, with event and F1 officials calling it off due to coronavirus concerns as fans queued at gates.
The decision was prompted by a McLaren staff member testing positive to the virus.
There were 17 F1 events in 2020 with drivers and teams competing in a "bubble'' with no contact with the public and no quarantine requirements as long as two weeks.
F1 races in Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi had to be shuffled to make way for the Australian GP, so the likes of Aussie Daniel Ricciardo can race in Melbourne.
The Australian Open was delayed three weeks from its scheduled dates as the government, Tennis Australia and players negotiated quarantine conditions.
Tickets to the Grand Prix had not yet gone on sale.
Originally published as New Melbourne Grand Prix date revealed