Australian GP’s unlikely replacement

Albert Park

Rumours of another Formula 1 calendar shake-up have emerged, with particular focus on the back end of the 2021 season.

The cancellation of the Australian Grand Prix, and the desire from the sport’s commercial rights holders to maintain a 23-race competition, have seen it head into the market to find a replacement venue.

Austria witnessed two races at the Red Bull Ring on successive weekends as the sport reacted to the cancellation of the Canadian Grand Prix.

Plans had originally seen that shift to Istanbul Park in Turkey, though that was quashed when the country was declared a red zone by the United Kingdom, complicating logistics for the British teams.

However, the Turkish event did find a berth on the calendar in place of the Singapore Grand Prix, and is currently poised to host the 16th round of the competition.

Thus far, a replacement for the cancelled Australian Grand Prix has not been named, though three potential candidates exist; two of which have hosted F1 before, and one which has not.

A second race at the Circuit of The Americas has been touted as a possibility, one in keeping with Liberty Media’s desire to build the sport’s profile in the United States.

However, squeezing an event in without another race collapsing would prove difficult; the Japanese Grand Prix precedes it by two weeks and the Mexico City Grand Prix follows just a week later.

A return to Bahrain is also a possibility, F1 having used the Outer Loop variant of the venue in 2020.

The third option is a debut at Losail in Qatar, a venue most notable for hosting the opening round of the MotoGP season.

Suggestions out of Europe claim there are other motivations at play too, relating to Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund holding a significant interest in the Volkswagen Audi Group.

Representatives of Porsche and Audi, both part of the VAG, were in attendance at a meeting in Austria earlier this month where F1’s future engine formula was discussed.

Audi has flirted with an entry into the sport as recently as 2015, though ultimately backed away from the plan.

Another whispered change is the season finale transferring from Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina to the all-new Jeddah Street Circuit.

While contracted to host the final round of the championship, the UK Government has recently placed the United Arab Emirates on the same list which scuppered Turkey’s chances of replacing Canada last month.

To mitigate that risk, the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix could find itself as the season finale, easing teams’ return from the Middle East.

There remain a number of other unanswered questions surrounding some future events, with Japan, Sao Paulo, and Mexico City all understood to be under a cloud.

Last season, together with back-to-back events at the Red Bull Ring, Silverstone, and Bahrain (on different layouts), F1 also took in the Eifel (Nurburgring) and Tuscan (Mugello) Grands Prix as it worked to maintain a 17-event schedule.

Formula 1 this weekend is in action at the Hungarian Grand Prix, the final event before the summer break, with the circus to return at the Belgian Grand Prix at the end of August.

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