Formula One great Alan Jones says only a “bloody miracle” will allow the Australian Grand Prix to go ahead in March and that a rescheduled 2021 Melbourne race is “better than nothing”.
An Autosport report has suggested that the opening round of this year’s Formula One competition, scheduled for Melbourne on March 21, will be postponed because of Australia’s tough travel restrictions and fears over the emergence of a new strain of COVID-19.
The March 28 race in Bahrain is reportedly now set to become the season-opening contest, with an August date now being mooted for the Melbourne race.
Jones, only one of two Australians to win the World Drivers’ Championship, said the public’s health had to be the priority, and that the season would run the risk of being “compromised” if the Melbourne race opened the year’s program in March.
“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.
“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.”
Having experienced the disappointment of travelling to Melbourne last year only for the Australian Grand Prix to be cancelled at the last minute, Jones said a race at any time in 2021 would suffice.
“Obviously if we can’t have the first one, which would be ideal, then anyone is better than nothing,” he said.
“They all love coming to Australia. We always put on a bloody good show. It’s a great circuit so I’d be welcoming it no matter what month it was.
“It was very disappointing last year because like everybody I went down there and was all set for the Grand Prix to happen and then when it was called off at the last minute, it was a major let-down.|
A Victorian Government spokesman said the public’s safety remained the priority over the staging of the Melbourne race.
“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.”
Via a prepared statement, the Australian Grand Prix Corporation said it was working closely with the Victorian Government and Formula One on “conditions and arrangements relating to the staging of the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne in 2021”.
“Further detail will be provided upon finalisation of arrangements with all parties in the coming weeks,” the statement said.