Aus GP reliant on relaxed virus conditions

Shayne Hope
(Australian Associated Press)

 

Australia’s staging of a Formula One Grand Prix in November is reliant on state and federal government quarantine conditions relating to the coronavirus pandemic being relaxed in time for the rescheduled race.

Strict travel restrictions currently make Australia one of the most difficult countries for F1 teams to enter and was a significant factor in the decision this week to delay the usual season opener at Melbourne’s Albert Park until late in 2021.

Australian Grand Prix Corporation chief Andrew Westacott said it “wasn’t possible” logistically for about 1200-1600 drivers and staff to serve the required two-week quarantine period in Melbourne.

The Australian GP is now slated to be held from November 18-21, after a race in Brazil on November 7.

Victoria’s Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events Martin Pakula admitted he had genuine fears Australia would lose its spot on the F1 calendar if a date was not found for this year’s race.

But Pakula welcomed the new November timeslot, declaring it had bought the government valuable time to assess the pandemic’s progression in coming months and work out coronavirus protocols in conjunction with Formula One.

However, the tight GP schedule could still pose problems if strict quarantine measures remain in place.

“I suspect in many respects things will look quite different in November to how they look in January,” Pakula said on Wednesday.

“The (COVID-19) vaccine rollout has started in Europe and America, it will start in Australia in February, and we expect that to gather pace right throughout 2021.

“We expect the epidemiological conditions to be different (by November) and there’s a whole lot of things that we’ve now got time to negotiate with Formula One in terms of pre-arrival testing, vaccinations, bubbles and all sorts of things.”

Pakula is hopeful the Australian GP will return to its regular autumn slot in 2022, with the March date slotting neatly into Victoria’s major events calendar between the Australian Open tennis and AFL season.

If it does move back to March next year, Melbourne could host two F1 races in the space of four months.

The track and associated temporary facilities usually take up to 10 weeks to set up and five weeks to pack down, meaning they would likely remain in place at Albert Park over the 2021-22 summer.

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