Australian F1 Grand Prix and MotoGP event cancelled for 2021

Formula One confident a 23-race calendar could be maintained for this season

 The Australian Formula One and MotoGP races have been cancelled for a second straight year due to the coronavirus pandemic. File photograph: Getty Images

The Australian Formula One and MotoGP races have been cancelled for a second straight year due to the coronavirus pandemic. File photograph: Getty Images

 

The 2021 Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne has been cancelled for a second straight year due to “restrictions and logistical challenges” relating to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

The Victorian government said on Tuesday that the slow vaccine rollout in the state and the federal government’s recent decision to halve its cap on international arrivals made it impossible at this point to give assurances over the event’s viability.

The MotoGP event at Phillip Island, scheduled for October 24th, has also been cancelled, as it was in 2020.

“Given the very low national two-dose-vaccination numbers, and given the decision of national cabinet on Friday, we’re simply not in a position to give F1 management or MotoGP the sorts of guarantees and assurances and comfort that they need this week,” Victorian sports minister Martin Pakula said.

It was not immediately clear where a replacement race would be held, but Formula One chief executive Stefano Domenicali said he expected a full season to be delivered without Melbourne.

“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 and we have a number of options to take forward to replace the place left vacant by the Australian Grand Prix,” Domenicali said.

“We will be working through the details of those options in the coming weeks and will provide further updates once those discussions are concluded.”

The lucrative Formula One race in Melbourne, one of the highlights of the Australian sporting calendar, was called off at the last minute in March 2020, just as the Covid-19 pandemic was taking hold.

This year’s race had already been pushed back from its usual early season slot to November, when it was hoped restrictions would have eased. Victoria is almost free of locally transmitted coronavirus cases, but strict quarantine arrangements for overseas travellers remain in place.

Race organisers had asked the Victorian government for a fly-in, fly-out arrangement with a biosecure hub set up for drivers, team officials and staff, to avoid the mandatory 14-day quarantine period that would rule them out of another race.

Given the quick turnaround between races on the F1 calendar, drivers also racing in the preceding Brazilian Grand Prix – which takes place on November 7th – would be unable to complete the required period of quarantine in time to take part in Melbourne. The race weekend at Albert Park was due to start on November 18th.

“I understand that, for motorsports fans and major events fans, this is very disappointing news,” Pakula said. “But some 1,600 visitors in November with the bespoke quarantine arrangements needed in an environment where national cabinet has decided to halve international arrivals and not look at different quarantine arrangements probably until the beginning of 2022 really makes it extremely difficult for us to give those organisations the sort of guarantees that they require.”

The Australian Grand Prix Corporation’s Covid-safe plan came under scrutiny last week when the federal government announced a 50 per cent reduction in the cap for returning overseas travellers, even though the sizeable grand prix cohort would likely fall outside that cap.

It comes as Victoria recorded a sixth straight day of zero locally transmitted cases, while NSW reported 18 and Queensland one on Tuesday.

“We appreciate the challenge Australia faces with current international travel restrictions and the importance of vaccinations,” Australian Grand Prix Corporation chairman, Paul Little AO said.

Dan Andrews, the premier of Victoria, said holding major sporting events like the Grand Prix was “very challenging” given Australia’s slower than expected vaccine roll out.

“When you’ve halved the number of people coming into the country, when you’ve got 10 per cent of people vaccinated when you want and need 70 or 80 per cent to have had the jab, we’re not at that point,” Andrews said earlier on Tuesday. “The timing doesn’t quite line up, and that makes it very, very challenging.”

Planning will begin immediately for the return of both motorsports events in 2022.

Another of Melbourne’s major international sporting events, the Australian Open tennis tournament, is due to the be held in January next year, when Andrews believes a more vaccinated population will allow that to go ahead as planned.

“The reason I am confident of that is that that’s exactly after the period I’ve just been talking about, where we hopefully hit that magic number,” Andrews said. “Everyone who wants to be vaccinated, everybody who can be convinced to be vaccinated has been. At that point, that critical mass, then we’re not locking down anymore.” - Guardian

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