The Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix has been cancelled for a second successive year due to ongoing complications with logistics, travel restrictions and quarantining related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Confirming months of speculation that the Australian round of the 2021 F1 World Championship would not go ahead on its rescheduled November date, the Australian Grand Prix Corporation (AGPC), in conjunction with the Victorian Government and Formula 1, made the cancellation official in a statement released on 6 July. At the same time, the AGPC confirmed that the 2021 Red Bull Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix at Phillip Island would also be cancelled.
“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 AO.
“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.”
AGPC board member, Mark Webber said he was “shattered” that F1 couldn’t be held in Australia for a second successive year, while Daniel Ricciardo said it was “a huge disappointment” for all drivers that they wouldn’t be coming to Albert Park this year.
Formula 1 CEO, Stefano Domenicali, was more pragmatic: “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. We will be working through the details of those options in the coming weeks and will provide further updates once those discussions are concluded.”
Back in January, the Australian GP was moved from its traditional season-opening slot in March to 18-21 November in the hope it would give the 2021 event a better chance of going ahead, but ultimately made no difference.
The ongoing uncertainties over COVID outbreaks and their impact on national and international travel movements, combined with low vaccination rates in Australia and the possibly of limits – or even outright bans – on spectators were major hurdles to this year’s event going ahead. But the likelihood that all overseas F1 personnel would have to submit to 14-day quarantine upon arrival in Victoria was a bridge too far.
Reflecting these uncertainties, tickets for the event never went on sale before the cancellation was announced.
While the MotoGP calendar has already been modified to reflect the cancellation of the Australian round, with a new European round added, there has been no word on what changes will be made to the Formula 1 calendar. The 18-21 November date was still ‘TBC’ at time of writing.
Australia joins Singapore and Canada in overseas rounds cancelling this year, and while other flyaway rounds remain, including at Japan, Brazil, the USA and Mexico, some, if not all, of these are in doubt, too.
Should the Australian round be cancelled for a third year in 2022, it opens up real concerns of Formula 1 not coming to this country again. As Domenicali indicated, there are “a number of options” to replace Australia on the calendar, and while he’s referring to this year, it could be applied permanently.