Australian GP to open 2021 F1 season, MotoGP returns in October
By Mat Coch
Saturday 3rd October, 2020 - 6:00am
The Australian Grand Prix will open the 2021 Formula 1 season while its MotoGP counterpart will retain its traditional October slot according to Andrew Westacott.
Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, Westacott moved to lay to rest suggestions the Formula 1 race could move later in the year, and that MotoGP could go in the opposite direction.
“Our discussions with Formula 1, and also with Dorna – who run MotoGP – are regular and very, very positive in all regards,” he told Speedcafe.com.
“What I know for both, I’ll call them world tours, but with both motorsport calendars, that both intend to issue their provisional calendars for the 2021 season in mid- to late-October.
“What that means for Formula 1 is Melbourne will be in its traditional March season opening slot on the provisional calendar.
“What it means for MotoGP is that Phillip Island will be in its traditional slot in late October on the MotoGP calendar, when they’re both released in mid- to late-October.”
Both would be subject to government sign-off and to ensure any ongoing coronavirus measures are satisfied.
Exactly what that looks like is not yet especially clear, though the AGPC is maintaining a flexible approach, especially when it comes to the Albert Park venue.
“We’re adopting an approach which, if you wanted to use the words, is modular, expandable, adaptable, flexible, and it’s got to be sensible and very, very safe,” Westacott said.
“When it comes to the development of that calendar and, therefore, the locking in of the race, we have to be flexible, and we have to be sensible and safe.
“Everything is ultimately health driven, but Victoria is doing a great job of driving back down the numbers.
“My optimistic approach is that we’ll be ready to have spectators at Albert Park in late March.
“I look at what Formula 1 and MotoGP are doing,” he added.
“Technically there’s 31 races across 14 different countries, and Formula 1 and MotoGP are leading the way in an international motorsport environment.
“In Australia, Supercars is operating very effectively, so we believe that we can operate and deliver a great event in March.”
While Westacott expects Melbourne and Phillip Island to retain their current slots on the respective calendars, he concedes there is potential for movement.
That would have to happen quickly if it were to receive Victoria State Government sign-off, and is therefore unlikely, especially for F1.
“The Grand Prix Corporation, the government, and Formula 1 will all have to realise that decisions have to be made this side of Christmas,” he explained.
“Once the provisional calendar is put out there in October, as the first race, it won’t be more than a month’s time before that’s finalised, and locked away.
“That will be, obviously, a collective decision, but once it’s locked away, we need to commit to that, because it’s not in anyone’s interest to have a cancellation of the nature of March this year.
“It’s a hypothetical at the moment, and at this stage, the first part of the appetite is to do it in March as the season opener,” he responded when asked if there was an appetite to move the F1 event if it couldn’t go ahead in March.
“I mean, Melbourne’s experience economy, and its visitor economy, needs to be kick-started and reignited.
“We have to place trust in tourism operators and event promoters, and we have to restart an industry that contributes heaps to the state’s economy. That’s much better done in March.
“If circumstances change, then we need to be flexible and change with those circumstances, but for the time being we’re well and truly going to be on that provisional calendar for March.
“Some four weeks after that, we’d be locking it away, and if we’re on the provisional calendar for March we’d be intending to confirm the March date as well, some four to five weeks later.”
The approach to MotoGP is somewhat different, with the race coming in the back half of the campaign.
It had been suggested that the MotoGP event could move forward to March, and while that possibility wasn’t ruled out, for the moment the focus is on getting through 2021.
That would potentially place both major events in close proximity of one another on the calendar, though that in itself is not a deal breaker.
“Any change on a MotoGP date, now’s not the time to be doing that or entertaining it,” Westacott said.
“The discussions with Dorna were very, very simple about keeping the Phillip Island round of the MotoGP calendar in its normal traditional slot, which is very, very good for everyone.
“The first challenge of MotoGP and Formula 1 is to build up and make sure that the normality of their calendars is returned in 2021.
“We’re very, very open-minded and we flex and move with the desires and the needs of calendars,” he added.
“We’ll cross that bridge further down the track, but we’re open-minded to considerations of change or adjustment, whether it’s a minor adjustment or more larger adjustment.
“But I don’t think also, those challenges of having two events around similar time are so insurmountable that it could never occur if it was deemed appropriate.”
The Australian Grand Prix Corporation has contracts with Formula 1 and Dorna for events until 2025 and 2026 respectively.