After COVID-19 restricted the 2020 MotoGP World Championship to a handful of European circuits, many fans had high hopes for the 2021 season. When Dorna released the 2021 provisional schedule in November, 2020, calendar mainstays like Motegi (Japan), Phillip Island (Australia), and Sepang (Malaysia) returned to the world championship. Unfortunately, the celebrations were short-lived.
Despite vaccines rolling out in the U.S. and Europe, many parts of the world are still struggling with the ongoing pandemic. After canceling the Finnish Grand Prix in May, 2021, the Japanese GP followed close behind in June, 2021. Fortunately for American fans, that made way for MotoGP to return to the Circuit of the Americas (COTA), but soon after, the Australia GP and Thailand GP went by the wayside as well.
Now, Dorna is canceling the Malaysian Grand Prix due to the country’s record-breaking spike in COVID-19 cases. On August 18, 2021, Malaysia reported 22,242 new coronavirus cases and averaged 20,852 over a 7-day period. Those figures dwarf the previous record of 8,209 new cases set on June 3, 2021. With the nation’s resources stretched and travel restrictions in place, race organizers and local officials determined that holding the Grand Prix is no longer feasible.
As a result, the updated 2021 calendar will now feature two races at the Misano World Circuit. The first round will occur on September 19, 2021, following the Aragon Grand Prix. The MotoGP paddock will then travel to COTA in Austin, Texas, for the Grand Prix of the Americas before returning to Italy for the second Misano round on October 24, 2021.
While the original 2021 calendar signaled the return to a normal MotoGP schedule, COVID-19 is still impacting the championship. As of now, the two Qatar races and COTA round represent the only non-European events. The Algarve (Portugal), Losail (Qatar), Misano (Italy), and Spielberg (Austria) circuits will each host two competitions this season, accounting for nearly half of the series’ races. With 19 rounds in total, the 2021 season expanded on 2020’s 13-race schedule, but without a Grand Prix in Asia or Oceana, the global health crisis continues shaping the World Championship.