Australian Grand Prix cancelled for second year in a row

Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas, centre, lifts his trophy as he celebrates after winning the 2019 Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix. (Rick Rycroft/AP)

MELBOURNE, Australia — The Australian Grand Prix has been canceled after local organizers and Formula One couldn’t come up with a compromise over Australia’s strict travel and quarantine issues relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The race was postponed from its original season-opening spot on the F1 calendar on March 21 and had been rescheduled for Nov. 21.

The 2020 Australian GP at the Albert Park street circuit in Melbourne last March was called off at the last minute at the start of the coronavirus pandemic shutdown.

“It’s very disappointing that these much-loved events can’t proceed but this is the reality of the pandemic, but until we get much higher vaccination rates we cannot return to more normal settings,” Victorian Sports Minister Martin Pakula said.

“There’s a few months to go, but they need to plan, and they need to have contingencies in place. Given the very low national two-dose-vaccination numbers . . . we’re simply not in a position to give F1 management the sorts of guarantees and assurances and comfort that they need.”

Victorian state Premier Daniel Andrews all but confirmed its cancellation earlier in the day, saying running such large events is “very challenging” given Australia’s low vaccination rate and international travel restrictions.

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

Formula One already has a race scheduled in Sao Paulo, Brazil for Nov. 7, which left little time for a potential hotel quarantine before the Australian race.

Pakula said he had spoken with Formula One chief executive Stefano Domenicali and that next April might be a possible spot on the 2022 F1 calendar for Melbourne.

“We’ve been talking April with F1 for some time, ” Pakula said.

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