Formula 1 says it remains committed to a 23-race 2021 calendar, and has several options, after it was announced that the Australian Grand Prix will no longer take place.
Australia’s race, held in Melbourne’s Albert Park, was an early casualty of the Covid-19 pandemic when its 2020 event was abandoned just a few hours before the scheduled start of practice.
The event was installed as the proposed 2021 season-opener in March but was pushed back until a November date in order to give race organisers greater clarity on the pandemic.
But Australia has some of the tightest border restrictions in the world, with a cap on international traveller intake, and anyone entering must still undertake a mandatory 14-day quarantine period in an approved hotel.
The situation has been accentuated by the slow nature of the vaccine rollout in Australia.
On Tuesday the government of Victoria outlined that both the Formula 1 grand prix and the MotoGP round, due to be held at Phillip Island, have been called off, outlining that the decision was mutually agreed between all parties.
Both Formula 1 and MotoGP required an assurance this week that their respective events could be held and that could not be provided.
It has yet to be determined whether Formula 1’s Australian Grand Prix will return to its traditional season-opening slot for 2022.
“We’re deeply disappointed that for a second consecutive year, both MotoGP and Formula 1 fans won’t be able to see the world’s best riders and drivers compete at the wonderful Phillip Island and Albert Park Grand Prix Circuits,” said Australian Grand Prix Corporation Chairman Paul Little.
“We appreciate the challenge Australia faces with current international travel restrictions and the importance of vaccinations.
“I would like to reassure our motivated and professional staff, suppliers and partners, as well as the Victorian tourism and major events community that we will work tirelessly to deliver these iconic events in 2022.”
The cancellation of Australia’s event has been anticipated for several weeks but it nonetheless reduces Formula 1’s schedule to 22 rounds.
However several venues remain in contention to step in to ensure Formula 1 maintains a 23-event line-up.
A potential return to China has been mooted, as has a second event at the Circuit of the Americas, while a return to Bahrain’s Outer Layout – potentially forming a triple-header with Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi to close out the year – has also been rumoured.
“While it is disappointing we won’t be racing in Australia this season, we are confident we can deliver a 23 race season in 2021,” said Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali.
“We have a number of options to take forward to replace the place left vacant by the Australian Grand Prix.
“We will be working through the details of those options in the coming weeks and will provide further updates once those discussions are concluded.”
Australia is the third country to cancel its plans to host a 2021 round, following on from Canada and Singapore.
A second event in Austria was held, ostensibly to fill the void left by Canada, while Turkey is currently scheduled to take Singapore’s slot.