In what will likely come as a surprise to no one, the IndyCar Series has been forced to postpone its season opener, Florida’s Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, as a result of rising COVID-19 cases in April. Instead of taking place on March 7, it will now be moved to April 25, taking the place of the Long Beach Grand Prix (which itself has been moved to be the season finale).
Similar to the reasoning behind the Long Beach swap, IndyCar is hoping that postponing St. Pete will enable more fans to attend the event. On Tuesday, local officials reported 15,431 new COVID-19 cases in the state of Florida with just under 100 deaths.
While the move makes sense, it also raises questions about the efficacy of a racing season in 2021. COVID-19 hasn’t gone anywhere, and while the promise of vaccines certainly makes the prospect of attending a race more appealing, it’s very likely that we won’t see a widespread impact until the latter half of 2021.
IndyCar president Mark Miles noted that “It’s not surprising that an event of this magnitude, scheduled for the first week of March, is still subject to the implications of the pandemic”—which seems like a bit of an understatement. An event held on city streets is a big more of a logistical nightmare than hosting a race at a track out in the country, where it’s far easier to isolate.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see 2021's street circuit events suffer. If they take place at all, it is more likely they’ll end up rescheduled toward the end of the season, similar to 2020 with St. Petersburg being the only street circuit and the season finale.
As a result of the move, the IndyCar season premiere is set to take place at Barber Motorsports Park on April 11, 2020. That event will also serve as the season opener for the returning Indy Lights series.