Out-going Aus GP CEO wants circuit to be ‘open-minded’ about night race proposition

Sam Cooper
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen leads away at the Australian Grand Prix. F1 Melbourne, April 2023.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen leads away at the Australian Grand Prix. Melbourne, April 2023.

The outgoing CEO of the Australian Grand Prix has opened the door to the event being held at night in the future.

The Australian Grand Prix has been on the F1 calendar since 1985 and ever since, has been hosted during the day time in either Adelaide or Melbourne.

While this makes it easier for the host country, the time difference can be a challenge for F1’s traditional European audience.

The 2023 event started at 3pm local time which translated to 6am in London, 7am in central Europe, 1am in New York and 10pm on Saturday in Las Vegas.

Potentially hosting the race in the night could relieve some of the time pressures and with a new contract signed until 2037, outgoing boss Andrew Westacott has conceded the organisers should keep an open mind.

“[For] the [Australian Grand Prix] Corporation, the preference is in the sunshine,” Westacott told Sky Sports F1.”But what I would also say is, as you evolve the one thing that Victoria does well is innovate in major events.

“You’ve got to look at the 15-year horizon now and that’s why the Victorian government saw that this was important to secure [the new deal] – you can actually do things into the future.

“The great thing is we’ve had a partnership with Formula 1 since 1996 and therefore you can do these things with a very strong relationship. So be open-minded is probably the simple answer.”

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The Melbourne race has experimented with different start times but a full night race would require significant investment in terms of lighting with there currently being no infrastructure for such a race.

One change that the Australian Grand Prix Corporation will now have to prepare for is Westacott’s departure as he is set to retire from the post he has held since 2011.

Speaking in December at the time of his announcement, Westacott said the timing was right for both he and the race and that he expects a successor to be announced “in due course.”

“The timing was right for me and the timing is right for the corporation as well,” Westacott told the Today program on Channel Nine.

“The contrasting years between the start of COVID in 2020 and the way in which we opened Melbourne to the sporting world in 2022 both produced massive memories that I’ll remember forever.”