Australian GP set to get occasional season opener status

Date published: June 16 2022 - Editor

Ferraris battle in the Australian Grand Prix. Melbourne March 2019.

Melbourne will get to host the F1 season opener on a few occasions during its new 10 year deal.

The Australian Grand Prix will, once again, get to host a Formula 1 season opener in the not too distant future. Melbourne was once unshakeable as the venue to kick off a new F1 season, but has fallen out of favour in the past decade with Bahrain assuming the responsibility.

On Wednesday, F1 confirmed a new 10 year deal which will keep Melbourne on the calendar until 2035. As part of that new deal, Albert Park will be the season opener for at least five of the 10 years.

The Australian Grand Prix Corporation have confirmed they will host the season opener in 2024 and 2025, and on a further three, yet to be determined, occasions.

On the years where it doesn’t host the season opener, a slot within the first three rounds is still the most likely – similar to the arrangement for 2022.

“One of the things that happens is that it’s difficult enough [for us] to juggle four days of activity at Albert Park,” said AGPC CEO Andrew Westacott, as quoted by Motorsport.com.

“Formula 1 has to juggle 23 races on a calendar. At the start of the season, taking into account Ramadan, taking into account Easter, taking into account other scheduling constraints, five races to headline the start of the season in Melbourne is a great result. And that’s the guaranteed minimum.

“What we’re going to find is that over the course of that time, we’re going to be either Race 1, Race 2 or Race 3, very early in the season. It’s a great outcome. We saw 419,000 people here as the estimated attendance for 2022. We see that continuing.”

2005 Australian Grand Prix. Melbourne, Australia, March 2005

The field races away for round 1 of the 2005 season in Australia. March 2005.

With record-breaking attendances for the 2022 race, with over 400,000 people flooding through the gates over the three days, Westacott said it’s proof that having an early round in the season is important.

“We’ve always had an arrangement that sees us be one of the starting races,” he said.

“And that’s always worked out to be the first race. But we know that in a competitive environment, being up near the front of the season is still a very good outcome.

“We didn’t source more than that, what we were sourcing was a great outcome. And we think whether we’re Race 1 or Race 2 or Race 3 in the season, as proven in 2022, is a really good outcome for Melbourne.”

An attempt to wrest away the Australian Grand Prix was made by a group in Sydney, an attempt which proved unsuccessful.

“I’m not privy to what Sydney did,” said Westacott.

“But what I am privy to, and it’s in the public domain, is that South Australia, Queensland and New South Wales have coveted MotoGP and Formula 1. It’s on public record to say competitiveness is alive and well in the world of motorsport and it’s alive and well in the world of major events.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if other jurisdictions were putting in big overtures to the rights holders of not only MotoGP and Formula 1, but other major events. That’s why it’s so competitive and why it’s so good for economies.”