F1: After 419,000 attendance, Melbourne expected to announce F1 renewal

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has flagged an imminent Australian Grand Prix contract extension after last weekend’s record-breaking Formula One race in Melbourne.

And Andrew Westacott, the boss of the Albert Park event, says the Melbourne race was so successful that it now sets a standard that will make it very hard for any other Australian city to take it away.

An estimated 419,000 people flocked to Albert Park over the four-day race week from Thursday to Sunday, outstripping the previous record attendance of about 401,000 when Melbourne’s lakeside circuit first hosted the Grand Prix in 1996.

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However, drivers over this past weekend called for Australia to not be a standalone event as it is too hard on travel.

“Just coming to Australia for a single race is quite painful for everyone,” said Red Bull driver Sergio Perez, runner-up to Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc on Sunday.

Moving Australia to link up with Singapore and Japan in a late-season swing may be another option if Shanghai were to drop out again.

However, that is not a palatable option for local organizers, the Australian Grand Prix Corporation (AGPC).

“We’ve proven that we can have success both opening the season and coming in after a couple of races,” AGPC boss Andrew Westacott told Reuters on Monday.

“The time for Formula One in Australia is early in the season.”

While Westacott noted a standalone race in Melbourne was unpopular with F1 teams, he said the series’ expansion into new markets meant they had “better get used to” heading to different locations.

“The drivers have got to stop whining in some respects,” he said.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet had last year announced a bid to try to hijack the race for Sydney, but Andrews on Tuesday strongly hinted about the likelihood of a new deal for the GP to continue at Albert Park beyond the length of its current contract, which ends in 2025.

“We’ll have further announcements to make about the grand prix and other events in due course. Today is not a day for me to be announcing that. I could announce the extension. But that’s probably [for] a different day,” Andrews said.

“I’m pretty happy that we had the biggest grand prix that we’ve ever had, and that anyone’s ever had.”

“It has been three years since we last staged the GP and there’s been 41 events that F1 has been to around the world. The key thing we have done here and now is remind F1 of how good an event we put on,” Westacott said on Tuesday as he reflected on the success of the 2022 race.

“It was worth the wait, and we have set the bar very high for other events around the world.

“We can never control what other jurisdictions can do, but if you give your partners and stakeholders exemplary service, great value for money, full entertainment and professionalism up to the standards of what they want to deliver on a global basis, you are going to make it very hard for them to look anywhere else.”

“With the emergence of the young drivers the sport is just going to grow and grow and grow, and we are going to grow with it,” he said.

“We intend to improve every year. We are always in discussions about the future with F1. That can never cease. We did the resurfacing [and revamping of the parklands track] with an eye to the future. You are always talking to your partners.”


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