Aussie F1 boss calls for drivers to 'stop whingeing' after complaints

·Sports Reporter
·4-min read
Australian Grand Prix Corporation boss Andrew Westacott has dismissed complaints from George Russell and other F1 drivers about the timing of the trip to Melbourne. Pictures: Getty Images
Australian Grand Prix Corporation boss Andrew Westacott has dismissed complaints from George Russell and other F1 drivers about the timing of the trip to Melbourne. Pictures: Getty Images

Though the return of the Australian Grand Prix after a two year hiatus was a triumphant success, in the lead up to the race not all drivers were happy about being back in Melbourne.

With the majority of F1 teams based in Europe, every trip to Albert Park is a massive logistical challenge - both for teams and drivers, who have to overcome crossing multiple timezones as part of the gruelling 2022 calendar.

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With the most grand prix ever in a season at 23 this year, teams are stretched to the limit - leading to some complaints about the timing of the Australian GP.

Despite there being a two-week break between the Saudi Arabian GP and last weekend's race in Melbourne, drivers in particular have raised eyebrows at F1's immediate swing to Italy this weekend for the Emiglia Romagna GP at Imola.

Red Bull's Sergio Perez and Mercedes' George Russell were among a number of drivers who called for the timing of the Australian GP to be reassesed, with Russell talking up a return to an Albert Park season opener.

However those calls may fall on deaf ears, with Australian Grand Prix Corporation boss Andrew Westacott issuing a slightly pointed message in response.

He told Reuters drivers ought to simply focus on the job in front of them, though he agreed an Australian race was better off being earlier in the season.

“We’ve proven that we can have success both opening the season and coming in after a couple of races,” Westacott said.

“The time for Formula One in Australia is early in the season.

“The drivers have got to stop whingeing in some respects.”

More than 420,000 fans attended the grand prix weekend in Melbourne.

It marked the return of F1 to the city, after the 2020 season opener was cancelled at the last minute due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, while the 2021 race was axed again due to Covid-19 concerns.

F1 drivers voice concerns over lengthy Australian GP travel

Perez, Russell and Ferrari's Carlos Sainz all raised concerns about the placement of the Australian GP on the F1 calendar in future.

Russell said he had always enjoyed Albert Park as a season-opener, adding that it would make sense in future to make it a back to back weekend with another race in Asia or the Middle East.

In it's current format, Russell said it was just 'too tough' for teams to perform at the top level with the travel burdens as they were.

“I think Melbourne here as the season-opener was really cool because everybody came up here early and there was a lot of excitement and anticipation,” Russell said.

“But I think having Melbourne in between races, especially as a stand-alone, is too tough for the teams and everybody.

“People came out on Saturdays and Sundays to get acclimatised to the conditions, to the time zone change and it is just too much."

Sergio Perez was one of several F1 drivers to voice concerns over the timing of the Australian GP. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Sergio Perez was one of several F1 drivers to voice concerns over the timing of the Australian GP. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

The Australian GP could be unlikely to resume its once long held status as F1's season opener thanks to winter testing being conducted in Bahrain.

Perez said it made sense for the season opener to remain in Bahrain, but echoed Russell's call to place the Australian GP in a more logistically sensible spot on the calendar.

“As the season is getting longer and longer, we need to get a better balance,” he said.

“It works well at the moment because we are doing the winter testing in Bahrain, it makes sense to stay there.

“But it really has to be back-to-back with one of those races because just coming to Australia for a single race is quite painful for everyone.

“We all want to come here, but there is ways we can improve and in fairness to F1 Australia hasn’t been on the calendar for the last (two) years.

“I’m sure that going forward they can have a look at it.”

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