Melbourne Grand Prix: Australian race on calendar until 2035
Formula 1 has struck a new contract to race at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne until 2035.
The deal is a 10-year extension on the existing contract, which had been due to expire in 2025.
It will extend the race’s stay on the calendar to nearly 40 years.
Melbourne faced opposition from rival bids, including Sydney, but won out because of the commercial deal on offer and its status as an established successful event.
Melbourne’s Albert Park track made its debut on the F1 schedule in 1996.
It has become a mainstay of the F1 calendar, and continues to be a major success for Melbourne and the state of Victoria.
This year, as Melbourne returned to the schedule after an absence of three years because of the coronavirus pandemic, 419,000 spectators visited Albert Park – the largest crowd for a weekend sporting event in Australian history.
F1 president and chief executive officer Stefano Domenicali said: “The race has always been a favourite for the fans, drivers and the teams, and Melbourne is an incredible and vibrant international city that is a perfect match for our sport.
“This year we saw huge crowds and passionate fans at the Grand Prix, and we are very excited by the future in Australia as our sport continues to grow.”
Victoria’s minister for tourism, sport and major events, Martin Pakula, said: “The Australian Grand Prix has never been bigger. We know how important this event is to our economy and that’s why we’ve delivered the longest extension for the race since it has been held in Melbourne.”
Melbourne organisers have agreed to upgrade the pits and paddock facilities to future-proof the event for its new deal.
The track was modified for the first time for this year’s event in April in an attempt to increase overtaking possibilities.
From 1996 until 2019, Melbourne was – with the odd exception – typically the opening race of the season.
That position was lost to Bahrain this year, as Australia was moved to the third race of the season because of uncertainties over immigration restrictions in the context of the pandemic when the schedule was being set last year.
In the future, Bahrain and Melbourne are likely to share the opening slot. Bahrain is set to become the de facto first race of the season, but Melbourne will step in when the timing of the Muslim festival of Ramadan makes it impossible to race in the Middle East on the required date.
F1 is still working on the 2023 schedule but insiders say Melbourne is not expected to be the season-opening race next year. – bbc.com