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The 2021 Formula One season will have a new curtain-raiser after the Australian Grand Prix, which was scheduled to kick off the campaign on March 21, was pushed back until November.
The showdown in Melbourne has been the traditional season opener since 1996 – excluding in 2006, 2010 and last year, when the race was called off at the eleventh hour due to the coronavirus crisis.
And F1 bosses have again been forced to shake-up the season and delay the Australian race, while the Chinese GP has also been postponed.
Ultimately, the sport has been forced into action with strict coronavirus travel restrictions in place in both countries.
The announcement means two of the opening three rounds have been rejigged – but the sport remains confident of staging a record-breaking 23-round campaign.
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Reginign world champion Lewis Hamilton will now kick off his title defence in Bahrain on March 28 before the F1 stars head to Europe for a race in Imola on April 18.
It is expected Portimao in Portugal will then host the third round on May 2 before the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona a week later.
Australia’s new date of November 21 means the season will be extended by one week, with the campaign closing in Abu Dhabi on December 12.
The British Grand Prix retains its original July 18 slot meaning it will avoid a clash with the Euro 2020 final at Wembley and the Wimbledon men’s final.
F1’s new boss Stefano Domenicali said: “It has been a busy start to the year at Formula One and we are pleased to confirm that the number of races planned for the season remains unchanged.
“The global pandemic has not yet allowed life to return to normal, but we showed in 2020 that we can race safely as the first international sport to return and we have the experience and plans in place to deliver on our season.
“It is great news that we have already been able to agree a rescheduled date for the Australian Grand Prix in November and are continuing to work with our Chinese colleagues to find a solution to race there in 2021 if something changes.
“We are very excited to announce that Imola will return for the 2021 season and know our fans will be looking forward to the return of Formula One after the winter break and our revised season-opener in Bahrain.
“Obviously, the virus situation remains fluid, but we have the experience from last season with all our partners and promoters to adapt accordingly and safely in 2021.”
The updated 2021 F1 race calendar
28 March – Bahrain (Sakhir)
18 April – Italy (Imola*)
2 May – TBC
9 May – Spain (Barcelona)
23 May – Monaco (Monaco)
6 June – Azerbaijan (Baku)
13 June – Canada (Montreal)
27 June – France (Le Castellet)
4 July – Austria (Spielberg)
18 July – United Kingdom (Silverstone)
1 August – Hungary (Budapest)
29 August – Belgium (Spa)
5 September – Netherlands (Zandvoort)
12 September – Italy (Monza)
26 September – Russia (Sochi)
3 October – Singapore (Singapore)
10 October – Japan (Suzuka)
24 October – USA (Austin)
31 October – Mexico (Mexico City)
7 November – Brazil (Sao Paulo)
21 November – Australia (Melbourne*)
5 December – Saudi Arabia (Jeddah**)
12 December – Abu Dhabi (Yas Island)
*Revisions to calendar are subject to World Motor Sport Council approval
**Subject to circuit homologation
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