Motorsport legend Alan Jones says it will take ‘some bloody miracle’ for the Australian Grand Prix to take place as scheduled in Melbourne in March, as Victoria and NSW battle to contain an outbreak of the coronavirus.
Slated to run from the 18th of March, with the F1 race itself on Sunday the 21st, organisers are working closely with the Victorian state government to figure out a plan amid concerns over strict quarantine requirements and fears of a more easily transmittable strain of the virus arriving on Australian shores.
According to motorsport outlet Autosport, the Bahrain GP could become the new season opener, with the Albert Park race potentially to be delayed until August.
Jones, one of just two Australians to win the F1 drivers championship, said that while it would be a shame for Australia to lose the season opener, the strict quarantine requirements posed the risk of ‘compromising’ the rest of the season.
“I have always loved the idea of Australia hosting the first round, because we’re the first ones to see new driver-car combinations, new regulations put into place ... we’re very fortunate that we’ve able to host the first round,” Jones said.
“But I can also understand the other side, the unwillingness to travel to the other side of the world and be locked down for two weeks. It’s a big ask.
Australia unlikely, Bahrain set to be season opener. Looks like #F1's best-laid plans have come unstuck. Believe a two-week quarantine that would have been circumvented with original idea has been insisted upon. Explained as best I can here: https://t.co/sfaBoR1bCD
— Scott Mitchell (@SMitchellF1) January 4, 2021
“It’s a logistics nightmare getting all those cars, equipment, and personnel, and all the TV stuff from one side of the earth to the other, even though they’ve become bloody good at it, but if they’ve got to stay an extra two weeks, it compromises the rest of the season.
“I’m hoping some bloody miracle will happen and we might reach a bit of a conclusion in the next couple of weeks, but failing that, I just can’t see it happening to be honest.”
Australian GP could be delayed over COVID-19 fears
After enduring a harsh six-week lockdown, during which Victorian residents could only leave their homes for an hour at a time amid a devastating second wave from July to September last year, the state government says it is prioritising the health of residents above all else.
A spokesman said the government was continuing negotiations with Formula One to reach the right arrangement.
“Discussions between the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, the Government and Formula One management about the Formula One calendar for 2021 are ongoing,” the spokesman said.
“As part of those discussions, the Government will continue to prioritise public health considerations while protecting our major events calendar.”
It comes as McLaren driver Lando Norris revealed he had returned a positive test for the coronavirus and was now self-isolating.
The 21-year-old British driver lost his sense of taste and smell before taking a test, his Formula One team announced on Wednesday.
"McLaren can confirm that Lando Norris tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday in Dubai, where he is currently on holiday ahead of a planned training camp," McLaren said.
"After recognising a loss of taste and smell, he was tested immediately and informed the team. In line with local regulations, he is now self-isolating at his hotel for 14 days.
"He is currently feeling well and reports no other symptoms."
Norris said he immediately self-isolated after losing his sense of taste and smell.
"I feel alright and have no other symptoms," he wrote on Twitter.
Norris is the fourth F1 driver to test positive for COVID-19 after seven-times champion Lewis Hamilton, Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll returned positive tests last season.
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