Explained: Why the Australian Grand Prix announced unusual fan ban

Thomas Maher
Fans celebrate after the 2023 Australian Grand Prix.

Fans celebrate on track after the 2023 Australian Grand Prix.

The organisers of the Australian Grand Prix have confirmed an unusual restriction will be placed on fans at this year’s race.

Fans attending this year’s race in Melbourne will not be permitted to enter the track itself following the Australian Grand Prix, forcing an end to a famous tradition where fans would swarm the track and gather at the start/finish straight for the podium ceremony.

The ban comes in the wake of the controversial scenes at last year’s race, which resulted in an FIA investigation being launched into the access of the fans.

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In a short statement released on Thursday, the Australian Grand Prix Corporation (AGPC) confirmed something that will disappoint the many fans showing up for this year’s race in Melbourne.

“The Australian Grand Prix Corporation advises that, given the ongoing FIA investigation into the early track breach at the conclusion of the 2023 event, there will be no track access for patrons following the Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix 2024,” read the statement.

However, the statement suggested the ban on fan track access could be a temporary measure.

“Decisions regarding patron access to the track at the conclusion of future races will be made at a later date.”

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Why has the Australian Grand Prix banned fans from accessing the track?

Given Melbourne, and many other circuits, have allowed fans to swarm onto the tarmac and enjoy the track layout once the racing activities have ended, what’s the reason for the change of heart?

The ban has come about as a result of multiple failings last year – both on the part of circuit security and the fan’s own behaviour.

While the circuit opens up access for spectators following the chequered flag and the cars have all left the track, some fans decided not to wait for everything to become safe.

Following the conclusion of the 2023 Australian Grand Prix, a small number of fans gained access to the track’s confines.

This was a huge safety hazard – the race had finished under the Safety Car and Nico Hulkenberg had to park his Haas at the side of the track after Turn 1. With the ERS light on red, indicating potentially dangerous electrical conditions if anyone touched it, spectators came frighteningly close to touching it.

“The security measures and the protocols which were expected to be in place for the Event were not enforced resulting in an unsafe environment for the spectators, drivers, and race officials,” said the stewards.

The incident prompted the stewards to refer the organisers to the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council, with AGPC conceding there had been “unacceptable situations that could have had disastrous consequences”.

AGPC was found in breach of Article 12.2.1.h of the FIA International Sporting Code which decrees: “any unsafe act or failure to take reasonable measures, thus resulting in an unsafe situation”.

But, given AGPC’s immediate willingness to admit to the failings as well as agreeing to thorough reviews and a remediation plan with the FIA, the race was not struck from the calendar.

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