UPDATE, 12 January 2021: It's official, the 2021 Formula One Australian Grand Prix has now been postponed.
The Australian Grand Prix, held at Melbourne's Albert Park street circuit, will now take place on 18-21 November 2021.
The Victorian Government and the Australian Grand Prix Corporation made the joint announcement this evening, citing continuing travel restrictions as the main cause of delaying the F1 race, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
"The global pandemic has not yet allowed life to return to normal, but we showed in 2020 that we can race safely as the first international sport to return and we have the experience and plans in place to deliver on our season," F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali said at the announcement.
"It is great news that we have already been able to agree a rescheduled date for the Australian Grand Prix in November. We know our fans will be looking forward to the return of Formula One after the winter break and our revised season opener in Bahrain," he said.
"As the third-last race of the season, this provides the opportunity to safely host what could be the championship-decider in Melbourne in the lead-in to summer," Australian Grand Prix Corporation Chairman, Paul Little AO added.
"We’d like to thank our loyal motorsport fans and employees for their understanding in these challenging times."
Ticket sales for the November event will be announced at a later date.
UPDATE, 8 January 2021: The 2021 Rolex Australian Formula One Grand Prix will be postponed, according to Aston Martin Formula One Team owner Lawrence Stroll.
In an interview with news outlet Reuters, Stroll said while event won't be going ahead in early 2021 as planned, he gave hope the race would return to Australian shores this year.
"Melbourne has been – it’s not officially announced but it will be – not cancelled but postponed. We will go there sometime in the fall (autumn) and the first race will be Bahrain," Stroll said.
5 January 2021: With just over two months from the scheduled date for the 2021 Rolex Australian Formula One Grand Prix, reports suggest the event will be postponed.
In early December 2020, Mercedes F1 team boss Toto Wolff raised concerns about Melbourne's strict two-week quarantine rules, saying it is infeasible for race teams.
Adding to quarantine woes is a new unknown strain of Covid-19, as well as the unlikelihood the vaccine will arrive prior to the event.
The question now remains: if Australia isn't the season opener, where will the first race be held?
In November 2020, Formula One revealed its 23 round calendar for the new year, reposting it on social media accounts only a few days ago. The posts sparked thousands of comments, with plenty of interaction on the hot topic of the Melbourne race.
Rumours suggest Bahrain could kick off the season, potentially pushing Melbourne to the back of the 2021 calendar, and making Abu Dhabi the penultimate round.
While nothing has been confirmed at this stage, it's possible the Australian round could be on the cards for a weekend around the time of the Singapore Grand Prix – provided it doesn't clash with the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix in late October, which is also hosted by the Australian Grand Prix Corporation (AGPC), the body which oversees the local F1 race.
In mid-December 2020, sources inside F1 told CarAdvice the Grand Prix in Melbourne was going ahead, but was subject to government approval.
That certainty has now decreased due to the recent Sydney outbreak, sparking yet another border closure between New South Wales and Victoria.
Despite active cases in Melbourne, the city is expected to host the Australian Open tennis tournament next month with strict quarantine rules in place for international competitors.
While tough procedures may be in place, in light of the recent events in the state and new coronavirus variant, the Australian F1 Grand Prix now may not go ahead.
A statement from the AGPC said it will “continue to work closely with the Victorian Government and Formula 1 on conditions and arrangements”, but the final verdict won't be known until later this month.