MELBOURNE • The Australian Formula One Grand Prix and MotoGP round were cancelled for the second successive year yesterday because of the border controls in place to keep Covid-19 out of the country.
Last year's edition was also axed at the last minute as the pandemic took hold and while this year's round in Melbourne was shifted from its traditional season-opening spot to Nov 21 in the hope the race could still be salvaged, the problems presented have proven insurmountable.
Australia's borders are still effectively closed - as has been the case since March of last year - and the requirement for anybody entering will be a 14-day quarantine, a measure that looks set to remain in place until the end of the year, at the earliest.
"We're deeply disappointed that for a second consecutive year, both MotoGP and Formula One fans won't be able to see the world's best riders and drivers compete at the wonderful Phillip Island and Albert Park circuits," Australian Grand Prix Corporation chairman Paul Little said.
"We appreciate the challenge Australia faces with current international travel restrictions and the importance of vaccinations... We will work tirelessly to deliver these iconic events in 2022."
F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali expressed his disappointment but said he was confident that a 23-race calendar could be maintained for this season.
"We have a number of options to take forward to replace the place left vacant by the Australian Grand Prix," he said. "We will be working through the details of those options in the coming weeks."
MotoGP organisers have moved the Malaysia Grand Prix forward by a week to fill the gap left by the Australian race on Oct 24 as well as adding a second Portuguese round, the Algarve Grand Prix, to the calendar on Nov 7.
Race organisers had been in negotiations with Australian authorities for an adjustment to the quarantine policy, but Martin Pakula, the sports minister for Victoria, said the state was unable to make a commitment the rules could be relaxed if the global Covid-19 situation was to have improved by October.
But Mr Pakula remains confident that the country's vaccine roll-out, which has been one of the slowest in the developed world, would be accelerated to the extent that restrictions would not impact tennis' Australian Open in January next year.
The Grand Slam was held in February after the players agreed to a two-week quarantine but indications are that they would not be prepared to do so again.
"I'm very confident that the Australian Open will proceed," Mr Pakula said. "It may not sound like a lot, but we would expect the difference between November and January to be quite profound."