There will be no Formula 1 or MotoGP racing in Australia for the second consecutive year, promoter Australian Grand Prix Corporation announced early Tuesday. The MotoGP event was scheduled for October 24 at Phillip Island, while the F1 race was to take place at Albert Park In Melbourne on November 21.
While not confirmed until today, the prospect of two of the world’s biggest international racing series stopping over in Australia in 2021 seemed questionable, even as their events remained on the calendar. That’s because Australia has been taking a hardline approach to control travel throughout the pandemic — not just through its borders, but inside them as well.
It’s a strategy that has kept COVID-19 transmission low despite a delayed vaccine rollout; the government reports just under 31,000 cases to date at the time of writing, with 910 deaths. But it’s come at the expense of locking citizens out of their own country and, in some cases, completely denying them autonomy within it.
Inviting competitors and their teams, with all the personnel involved, to land, put on a show and be gone while its own people can’t even come home doesn’t seem like the greatest optics for the country. If I were Australian, it’d probably leave me seething. So perhaps it’s for the best that they skip this one.
MotoGP seems as though it was more prepared for this eventuality. The calendar on the series’ website has already been updated to reflect changes in the wake of the Phillip Island cancellation. The Malaysian Grand Prix will now run a week earlier than originally scheduled, occupying the weekend of the cancelled Australian race. Two weeks after that, there will be a race at Portimão — the second of the season after the series initially visited the track back in April.
As for F1, the end of 2021 is looking increasingly uncertain if the series is to stay committed to its irrational 23-race plan coming out of a pandemic year. There are already question marks looming over the Japanese and Brazilian Grands Prix, and F1 will likely approach their potential cancellations by doubling up on races at the same tracks back-to-back— as it recently did in Austria — or returning to Bahrain.
Back in April, organizers for the Albert Park race announced significant adjustments to the circuit’s profile designed to produce faster racing and more room for overtakes. We’ll have to wait a bit longer to see what that new layout’s worth. The Australian GP is intrinsically linked with the start of the motorsport season for so many — here’s hoping the event can reclaim its spot at the top of the calendar in 2022.