Just a week into 2021 and questions as to whether the traditional season opener at Melbourne, the capital of Victoria in Australia, will go ahead have already surfaced. Scheduled for late mid-March, the state’s current Covid guidelines which mandate a 14 day quarantine period appear to be a major sticking point in having the event go ahead.
At the time of writing, Craig Slater from Sky Sports said: “It hasn’t been postponed yet, and I don’t expect an official announcement today or in the next few days. But one insider has told me that it is impossible that it can take place under the current Covid restrictions in force in Australia.” This leaves Bahrain as the mooted option for the first race of 2021 with its original date of March 28 to be brought forward by a week.
It puts a cloud over the event for 2022 and the rest of 2021, as to cancel it again would mean the second consecutive year for Melbourne and little, if no chance, of rescheduling due to 2021 having 23 events set to run. Should it arise that Melbourne’s running be rescheduled, it’s said that late August, the last month of the southern hemisphere’s winter and generally a mild period in Melbourne, would be suitable, but this is dependent on both the mooted schedule and any other events being affected.
The Victorian State Government has already confirmed that all players taking part in the tournament must adhere to the two-week quarantine upon arrival in Australia to “ensure the safety of all parties” whilst F1 has conducted rigorous testing for COVID-19 since the delayed start to the 2020 season, ensuring all paddock personnel attending events test negative before being allowed on site. The final event at Abu Dhabi effectively had all members locked into a biosphere to ensure no “out of venue” travel put people at risk of contracting Covid.
Ticket sales, as a result, have yet to commence.
2020 champion, and seven times world champion, Lewis Hamilton, was announced in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list that he would receive a knighthood. It’s a recognition of not only his on-track achievements but his Hamilton Commission for racial equality. “I’ve been fighting the stigma of racism throughout my racing career — from kids throwing things at me while karting, to being taunted by fans in black face at a 2007 Grand Prix, one of my first Formula One races,” said Hamilton.
However, the glow isn’t all that bright when it comes to contract negotiations. Hamilton is currently the only driver to have his seat confirmed for 2021. What originally seemed a certainty just weeks ago, Mercedes officials have reportedly turned down Hamilton’s demands, including a pay rise that would see him earn a whopping £35.5 million per year – the highest salary in all of F1 and on a four-year contract.
More controversially, though, Hamilton also wants a 10% share of Mercedes prize money should the side lift an eighth-straight title. Based on the 2020 pot, this would amount to a £13 million windfall for Hamilton.
He has also asked that Mercedes gift him one of their upcoming, limited-production AMG One cars. A limited-run of 250 of the two-door coupes, which will feature F1-derived technology, are set to be produced – and Hamilton wants one to be set aside for him.
Finally, Hamilton also wants to be guaranteed a ‘hands-on’ role with the team, helping them in making the electric transition. Reports suggest that Hamilton expects this to be more than just a figurehead-type position. Owners of Mercedes, Daimler, apparently kyboshed his demands as they eye off another, and younger, driver. He’s also British, and proved in the right car he can be very quick. That driver is George Russell.