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“A huge disappointment for all drivers”: Formula 1 hopes for a return to normality – and is slowed down – sport

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The ambitious record calendar with 23 races around the world remains a major challenge for Formula 1 during the corona pandemic. The Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, which was initially postponed from March to November, was finally canceled on Tuesday and the makers of the racing series have to reschedule again. Previously, the World Cup races in Montreal, Canada and the Asian metropolis Singapore were canceled due to corona restrictions. Further problems could follow, as stops are planned in North and South America and Asia until the end of the year.

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“While it is disappointing that we cannot drive in Australia this season, we are confident that we can still carry out the 23 races planned for 2021,” said Formula 1 boss Stefano Domenicali in a press release. Never before have there been so many events in a year. Formula 1 has “a number of options” as a replacement for the Grand Prix, which was supposed to take place in the Australian metropolis on November 21. In “the coming weeks” a solution should be presented, it said.

It is not possible to drive in Melbourne for the second time in a row. “It’s a huge disappointment for all drivers that we can’t come to Australia, but we understand the reasons,” said McLaren driver Daniel Ricciardo of his home race. In March 2020 everything was ready for the start of the season, in the initial phase of the pandemic the Grand Prix in Albert Park was only canceled at very short notice. This year the event had been postponed from the beginning of the season. But this deadline could not be kept either.

Strict security concept

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From an organizational point of view, the run in Melbourne has a particularly long lead time because the teams have to ship their equipment to the continent by sea. In addition to the many logistical question marks, there was also a long debate about whether the organizers could guarantee that such a large event would run safely in front of spectators in the middle of the pandemic. So the idea was in the room that the teams could move into a kind of sealed-off bubble after arriving in Australia in order to circumvent the strict quarantine obligation for normal travelers.

Formula 1 wants a return to normal after difficult months, but is once again thwarted by reality. While last weekend in Austria more than 60,000 fans sat in the stands for the first time and up to 140,000 spectators are expected in Silverstone in just under two weeks, racing – especially with an audience – has no priority elsewhere.

It is true that there is great hope that Mexico, Brazil, Japan, Saudi Arabia and the USA will also be driven by mid-December. What will actually be possible in view of the spread of the delta variant and a constantly changing infection situation should only show in the coming months. Because unlike Europe, large parts of the world are still more affected by the pandemic.

With a strict security concept, Formula 1 has tried to protect itself against Corona as best as possible. At the end of June it was published that of the 44,000 corona tests carried out so far this season, 27 were positive. That corresponds to a rate of only 0.06 percent. Much of the entourage has already been vaccinated, and it is optimistic that everyone will receive a vaccination offer by the end of summer, it said. Nevertheless, the formula moves around the world with well over 1000 people and is currently still dependent on special exceptions when entering different countries.

In Australia, a press conference on Tuesday expressed confidence that Formula 1 would return to Melbourne in spring 2022. But: “Before we achieve significantly higher vaccination rates, we cannot go back to normal,” said Martin Pakula, Minister for Tourism, Sports and Major Events in the Australian state of Victoria. As of Monday, only 7.6 percent of the roughly 25 million Australians were fully vaccinated. It is expected that a majority will not be vaccinated until next April. (dpa)

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