Australian Grand Prix Corporation chief executive Andrew Westacott is determined to avoid a Novak Djokovic situation when F1 returns to Melbourne this season.
Australia faced criticism from within its own borders and from around the world with their handling of tennis World No.1 Djokovic’s entry into the country.
The Serbian is unvaccinated but believed he had an exemption to enter Australia and compete in the season-opening grand slam because he had tested positive for Covid 19 in December.
He, however, was detained as he hopped off the plane and so began a drawn out and contentious saga that eventually ended with the tennis player being deported.
Neither the Australian government, the Tennis Australia or the player himself came out smelling like roses.
It is claimed Novak Djokovic will sue the Australian government for £3.2million, which includes the prize money he would have received had he won the Australian Open. https://t.co/pNrdMb7y9k
— Tennis365 (@tennis365com) January 20, 2022
Westacott wants to avoid a similar situation playing out when Formula 1 heads to Australia in April.
“It’s a massive global story, and it’s been out there for every sports fan and every sports journalist across the globe to report on, and therefore it’s brought focus on Melbourne and focus on the issue,” he told The Age.
“Because of the outcome of that issue, it hasn’t necessarily been observed favourably in the same way you get positive kudos at the end of staging these wonderful tournaments.
“Major events are a double-edged sword, and you always see this in the lead-up to and the staging of massive events, be it F1, grand slams, majors in golf, Commonwealth Games and Olympic Games.
“If you stage them well, you get pats on the back, and if you stage them poorly or there are issues, you’re judged in the court of public opinion. That’s what has happened here, and it’s up to sports fans or sports journalists [to] say whether we’ve lost our gloss.
“But there’s no doubt people have been sitting in judgement and observing it in many areas, and I know that because we deal with a lot of people on a global basis.”
Westacott expects all Formula 1 drivers to comply with border rules and to be fully vaccinated.
“If you look at the cancellation of our event on March 13, 2020 and the staging of the next event, which will be April 2022, there have been 41 events around the world staged, and in every one of those jurisdictions there have been different stages of the pandemic and different border entry conditions,” he added.
“In every one of those, Formula 1 has been able to operate and retain business continuity.
“It’s a mandatory requirement for the sport and the travelling contingent to be compliant at the points of entry, and they’ll be compliant at the point of entry in Australia and Melbourne.”
Formula 1 has not raced in Australia since 2019, the 2020 and 2021 races cancelled because of the pandemic.