2021 Formula 1 season kicks off with Bahrain and Imola; Australia and China races benched

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The Formula 1 2021 calendar has been reshuffled with two of the planned first three races no longer taking place on their original dates, as Bahrain gets set to host the season-opener at the end of March followed by the return of Imola.

The record 23-race schedule published in November had Australia opening on March 21, followed a week later by Bahrain and then China on April 11.

But due to the Covid-19 pandemic and restrictions, the Australian GP has now been postponed back to November 21, while the Chinese GP will also not take place on its scheduled date – with no new slot confirmed.

The Bahrain GP will now become the opener at Sakhir on March 28, while F1 is set to return to Imola – which was one of the European races drafted in last year but wasn’t on the original 2021 schedule – on April 18 for the second race, effectively as a China replacement.

F1 still hopes to run a 23-race calendar, and Portimao in Portugal is expected to hold a race in the current ‘TBC’ slot – which was previously held for Vietnam – on May 2.

Portimao hosted a Grand Prix for the first time last year as F1 managed to run a 17-race campaign despite delays and cancellations, while Imola, the much-loved Italian circuit and former host of the San Marino GP, was brought back for the first time since 2006.

Bahrain's Sakhir circuit will now host the season-opener on March 28

Explaining F1’s updated 2021 calendar

The revised calendar means the 2021 season will start a week later than expected, and end a week later.

After the first three races of 2021, the ‘European’ season is unchanged with races in Spain – which recently sealed a new contract – and Monaco before venturing to Azerbaijan and Canada. Rounds in France, Austria, Silverstone and Hungary will then take the sport to the August summer break.

But the second half of the season has been altered slightly to accommodate the Australian GP in Melbourne – which will host the third-last race of the campaign for the first time.

The Brazilian GP at Interlagos has been moved forward a week to November 7 and will form a triple header after races in the USA and Mexico. It will be the third triple header of the season, and result in nine races in 11 weeks.

The Australian GP is then set for November 21, while the double-header in the Middle East to close the season has been pushed back a week. The debut Saudi Arabia race in Jeddah is now scheduled for December 5 before the finale in Abu Dhabi on December 12.

The Chinese GP is only likely to take its place back on the 2021 calendar if another race drops out.

Stating that its postponement was due to ‘ongoing travel restrictions’, F1 said ‘discussions with the promoter and authorities in China are ongoing with the potential to reschedule the race later in the season if possible’.

Revised F1 2021 calendar
March 28 – Bahrain (Sakhir)
April 18 – Italy (Imola)*
May 2 – TBC (TBC)
May 9 – Spain (Barcelona)
May 23 – Monaco (Monaco)
June 6 – Azerbaijan (Baku)
June 13 – Canada (Montreal)
June 27 – France (Le Castellet)
July 4 – Austria (Spielberg)
July 18 – United Kingdom (Silverstone)
August 1 – Hungary (Budapest)
August 29 – Belgium (Spa)
September 5 – Netherlands (Zandvoort)
September 12 – Italy (Monza)
September 26 – Russia (Sochi)
October 3 – Singapore (Singapore)
October 10 – Japan (Suzuka)
October 24 – USA (Austin)
October 31 – Mexico (Mexico City)
November 7 – Brazil (Sao Paulo)
November 21 – Australia (Melbourne)*
December 5 – Saudi Arabia (Jeddah)**
December 12 – Abu Dhabi (Abu Dhabi)

*Revisions to calendar are subject to World Motor Sport Council approval
**Subject to circuit homologation