Start, Albert Park, Melbourne, 2019

Australian GP promoter wants return to season-opening date in 2022 after postponement

2021 F1 season

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The Australian Grand Prix promoter wants to return the race to its traditional March slot on the 2022 F1 calendar following its postponement to November this year.

Speaking at the Albert Park circuit on Wednesday Australian Grand Prix Corporation CEO Andrew Westacott and the Sports and Tourism Minister of the Victorian government Martin Pakula provided some details about the postponed event.

Pakula and his government are keen for the race to return to its traditional season-opening March date next year and beyond.

“It’s not forever,” he said, “we’ll be certainly very keen to go back to our traditional season opening slot in 2022,” he said.

If that proves the case, the AGPC and its contractors face a four-week teardown after the November race and an eight-week track build in the lead-up to a mid-March 2022 grand prix – provided it does not determine that returning the Albert Park precinct to ‘normal’ for just three weeks between events is worth the multi-million dollar cost.

Next month’s Australian Open tennis tournament, which is also being held in Melbourne, is expected to be held in front of crowds approximately one-third the size of that in previous years. At the same time almost 1,500 players, support staff, officials and media who are expected to travel to Melbourne for the tennis, starting at the end of this week, will face a strict 14-day hotel quarantine – though players will be allowed to travel to local courts to practice for up to five hours a day, provided that they do not mix with anyone outside the event’s ‘bubble’.

Pakula confirmed this was one of the factors that prompted the postponement of the F1 round. “I accept the circumstances in F1 are somewhat different,” he said, “but had they not been able to do that we may have been having a similar conversation with tennis.”

No such lockdown would be possible prior to the rescheduled Melbourne F1 event, which is set to take place 14 days after the Brazilian Grand Prix.

This may be the first of many 2021 F1 calendar reshuffles
Question marks over the full Albert Park program remain. The Supercars series has already confirmed a round at Melbourne’s Sandown Park on the now-vacant March 19th-21st weekend, but there is no word on whether the hugely popular championship will accompany F1 at Albert Park in November.

The series’ owners and teams split an appearance fee believed to be around AUS $1m (£566,000). The proximity of a round in New Zealand on November 6th-7th might mitigate against running the events back to back. The Porsche Carrera Cup, TCR Touring Cars, Touring Car Masters and S5000 categories were also due to race at Albert Park in March.

The roll-out of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine is expected to begin in Australia next month. Officials will hope its effectiveness – and the community’s success at suppressing the virus – will allow the November event can be run as close to normal as possible.

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Phil Branagan
Phil Branagan has been a motorsport writer and editor for more than three decades. From his Melbourne base, he has contributed to publications around...

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9 comments on “Australian GP promoter wants return to season-opening date in 2022 after postponement”

  1. Unrealistic, unless for one scenario. The only way this would be workable is that the temporary structures stay in place throughout the interval from November to March because otherwise, the timing of the dismantling and build-up processes would get unnecessarily tight. For Monaco, the dismantling takes three weeks, so I assume something similar for other street tracks or about a month at max. The build-up commences two+ months in advance, so depending on when precisely in March, it’d be either a few days after or before January halfway point. The second or third quarter of the month.

    1. I could’ve added: Moving from being in the late-season phase from one season to the early-phase for the next is perfectly viable for permanent tracks (Sepang, Sochi Autodrom, Imola, Algarve, etc.) Less so for temporary ones.

      1. The time of year makes no difference in Melbourne, weather wise it is neither too hot nor too cold for car racing.
        In terms of construction etc – the pit building is permanent and pretty much everything else is temporary. Most of the temporary infrastructure can stay in place; stands are scaffold, hospitality and minor support pits are temporary marquees which go up and down in a day or two, track wall sections can be lifted in and out easily and won’t be required anywhere else.
        Provided that most of the footy/cricket grounds behind the pit building are cleared/repaired and the golf course isn’t hindered, there’d be no major problems in leaving 75% of it in place.

        1. @S Of course, March versus November doesn’t make a difference weather-wise. Since my point was solely about the track construction stuff, I’ll respond to that: Thank you for enlightening the matter, although I already knew that the pit building (like in Singapore) is permanent rather than temporary a la Monaco (or Baku, which is slightly unclear in this regard). No problem indeed if 75% or more, if not all of the temporary stuff could stay in place waiting for the 2022 event. I hope you’re right.

    2. @jerejj As a one-off, leaving the structure in place for the summer might be accepted – especially if use is made of the venue in a neighbourhood-compatible way during the interval.

  2. Surely the Supercars will have to add Albert Park to their schedule. It’s a huge draw card for local motorsport fans. As much as I can’t understand it, I know a bunch of people I work with who haven’t the faintest interest in F1 but will go to the track just to see the Supercars. I imagine they’re not alone.

    1. @tommy-c The Supercars aren’t obliged to do anything. But if they’re willing to turn up, I think F1 has to accommodate them.

  3. Considering Victorian government approach to COVID handling, it is doubtful that November race will go ahead

    1. Depends if enough people have been vaccinated – and if the F1 paddock can show vaccination certificates themselves.

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