LONDON — The start of the Formula One season was delayed by one week on Tuesday after the Australian Grand Prix was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the race in Melbourne moved from March to November, the season will now start in Bahrain on March 28. The Australian race, initially set to open the season on March 21, has been rescheduled to Nov. 21 with F1 organizers citing “the ongoing situation regarding COVID-19.” The Chinese Grand Prix has also been postponed but no new date has been set. Strict travel restrictions for the pandemic make Australia and China among the hardest countries for F1 teams to enter. The season will instead start with the Bahrain Grand Prix less than four months after the Sakhir venue held two races as part of the 2020 season. A race has been added at the Imola track in Italy on April 18, a week after the scheduled date for the Chinese GP. There is a vacant slot on May 2, with the Portimao circuit in Portugal among the leading candidates for that weekend. “Discussions with the promoter and authorities in China are ongoing with the potential to reschedule the race later in the season if possible.” F1 said in a statement. There is no obvious back-up date in the calendar. Races in the second half of the season are organized back-to-back in three-week blocks, putting heavy strain on team staff. Postponing the Australian GP already means pushing back the end of the season in Abu Dhabi by a week to Dec. 12. The calendar stays at 23 races, the most ever. Martin Pakula, the minister for tourism and major events in the Victorian state government which backs the Melbourne race, said it was a sensible decision which potentially could mean international fans attending — if Australia's borders re-open in time. “This is the right decision and we thank Formula 1 management for their co-operation in setting a new schedule,” he said. “The Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix is one of the great events in the world and we’ll make sure it can be run safely and successfully in November.” The pandemic has disrupted the F1 season for a second year. Last year's race in Australia was cancelled after one team member tested positive for the coronavirus. Fans were preparing to enter the circuit for Friday practice when organizers announced the cancellation. That started a cascade of postponements and cancellations which meant the rescheduled 2020 season didn't start until July. There was a compressed 17-race schedule through December with all races in Europe or the Middle East. ___ More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
Government officials in Australia are involved in “live and active” negotiations with Formula One organizers about the timing of the race that is scheduled to open the season on March 21 at Melbourne’s Albert Park circuit. Media in Europe reported the Australian Grand Prix was likely to be postponed because of COVID-19 restrictions and staged later in the season. “As far as I know, there has been no decision made to cancel, move or otherwise with the Australian Grand Prix,” Victoria state’s Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville said Tuesday.
LONDON — Lewis Hamilton is now a “Sir” as well as a seven-time Formula One champion. Hamilton received a knighthood Wednesday as part of Queen Elizabeth II’s New Year's honours list, which also recognized British performers, politicians, public servants and people outside the limelight who worked to defeat the coronavirus and its devastating impacts. Hamilton, who secured his seventh F1 title last month to equal Michael Schumacher’s record, has said his recent success was partly inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. The 35-year-old race car driver took the knee on the grid and wore anti-racism slogans during the season. Hamilton told the BBC last week that “it was a different drive than what I’ve had in me in the past, to get to the end of those races first so that I could utilize that platform” against racism. Supporters have suggested Hamilton would have been knighted sooner if not for his tax status. Hamilton’s knighthood was awarded in the “overseas” section of the honours list because he lives in low-tax Monaco. His tax affairs made news in 2017 when the Paradise Papers leak showed he avoided paying more than $4 million in taxes on a private jet registered in the Isle of Man, a tax haven. Motorsport U.K. Chairman David Richards said Hamilton’s tax status had been “totally misunderstood” and that the racing champion was among the 5,000 highest taxpayers in the U.K. In other honours, veteran comic actress Sheila Hancock was made a dame, the female equivalent of a knight, in recognition of her six-decade career. Acclaimed makeup artist Pat McGrath, dubbed the “most influential makeup artist in the world” by Vogue, also received a damehood. There was a knighthood for cinematographer Roger Deakins, a 15-time Academy Award nominee who has won Oscars for “Blade Runner 2049” and “1917.” Actress Lesley Manville, an Oscar nominee for “Phantom Thread,” was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, or CBE. Actor Toby Jones, whose credits include voicing the character of Dobby in two “Harry Potter” movies, was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire or OBE, as was writer Jed Mercurio, creator of the TV detective series “Line of Duty.” Veteran footballers Jimmy Greaves and Ron Flowers were made Members of the Order of the British Empire, or MBEs, after a long-running campaign to ensure every surviving member of the team that won England the 1966 World Cup receives an honour. The queen's honours are awarded twice a year, in late December and in June, when the monarch's birthday is observed. The awards acknowledge hundreds of people for services to community or British national life. Recipients are selected by committees of civil servants from nominations made by the government and the public. Greta Westwood, chief executive of nursing charity the Florence Nightingale Foundation, received a CBE for her work highlighting the mental-health toll of the pandemic on front-line workers. Others honoured for their work during the pandemic include research scientists, statistical modelers, engineers and onesie manufacturer Katherine Dawson, who received an OBE for making scrubs for medics when supplies were short. In descending order, the main honours are knighthoods, CBE, OBE and Member of the Order of the British Empire, or MBE. Knights are addressed as “sir” or “dame,” followed by their name. Recipients of the other honours have no title, but they can put the letters after their names. There is growing criticism of the honours’ evocation of the British Empire, the legacy of which has been debated anew amid campaigns against racism and colonialism around the world. The education spokeswoman for the opposition Labour Party, Kate Green, who has an OBE, recently called the titles of the honours “offensive and divisive.” The British government said there are no plans to change the titles. Jill Lawless, The Associated Press