The 2021 Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix has been cancelled due to a rise in Covid cases in the country.
The race was due to be held on 8-10 October, and would have been the 17th of 23 rounds in this season’s calendar.
Races in Australia, China, Canada and Singapore have already been called off this season, and Japan joins them after a surge in Covid cases in the country. The rise had cast a shadow over the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, although they concluded successfully with comparatively few cases in the Olympic village.
The race was also cancelled in 2020 – it has not been held since 2019, when Valtteri Bottas took the win.
A statement from Formula 1 read: “Following ongoing discussions with the promoter and authorities in Japan the decision has been taken by the Japanese government to cancel the race this season due to ongoing complexities of the pandemic in the country.
“Formula 1 is now working on the details of the revised calendar and will announce the final details in the coming weeks.
“Formula 1 has proven this year, and in 2020, that we can adapt and find solutions to the ongoing uncertainties and is excited by the level of interest in locations to host Formula 1 events this year and beyond.”
The big issue for F1 is that it’s limited in the tracks it can draw on to replace any cancellations
The Japanese Grand Prix was to be the third event in a planned triple header, after the Russian Grand Prix and the rescheduled Turkish Grand Prix.
F1 now faces uncertainty over the remainder of the season. F1 bosses are insisting on a 23-race calendar, and with the loss of the Japanese and Australian Grand Prix, there are questions about whether the total is still viable.
Covid issues threaten to reduce the calendar further. The Turkish GP is now under threat because it would have helped with quarantine requirements for Japan, and it’s unknown whether keeping an entire workforce in hotels is an expense that teams will want (or be able) to pay in the cost-cap era.
There are also concerns, given the Covid situation in the Americas, whether the US, Mexican and Brazilian stints will go ahead either.
The big issue for F1 is that it’s limited in the tracks it can draw on to replace any cancellations. The European tracks that helped out last season may be a risk due to wintery weather conditions. Other Asian venues, such as a reinstatement of the Chinese GP, will depend on the Covid situation. It’s possible that there could be double-headers at Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi at the end of the season, but given the prize place of these events, how willing F1 may be to do this is uncertain.
It won’t be easy to sort out the calendar, but F1 chiefs need to do it soon, and hope that Covid won’t throw up any more issues along the way.