Talk of huge Australian GP move following driver complaints

·Sports Reporter
·4-min read
The Australian Grand Prix could once again be the F1 season opener, a massive boost for home driver Daniel Ricciardo. (Photo credit should read Chris Putnam/Future Publishing via Getty Images)
The Australian Grand Prix could once again be the F1 season opener, a massive boost for home driver Daniel Ricciardo. (Photo credit should read Chris Putnam/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

The Australian Grand Prix could resume its place as the Formula One season opener as soon as 2024, officials are hoping.

More than 415,000 fans packed into Albert Park for the return of F1 to Australia last weekend, following two years of cancelled races due to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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With Australia's place on an ever-expanding F1 calendar called into question slightly thanks to prior cancellations, the triumphant return to Albert Park has instead fuelled talk of it returning to the long-held season opening spot.

Bahrain was the venue for this season's first race after the second stage of pre-season testing was conducted at the Middle Eastern circuit, however Australian Grand Prix Corporation boss Andrew Westacott has talked up the prospect of Albert Park once again launching the F1 season in 2024.

Some F1 drivers had complained prior to the race that a standalone race in Australia mid-season was a logistical nightmare for teams, involving heavy travel and limited down-time between rounds, depsite a two-week gap before and after the Australian GP.

Mercedes driver George Russell was among those to raise concerns, however he backed in a return to the season-opener for Australia.

If Westacott, who earlier in the week called on drivers to 'stop whingeing' about the calendar, gets his way Russell's wish may come true.

Australia's status as season opener has largely hinged on 'scheduling', Westacott told the Herald Sun.

“There’s also Ramadan to consider,” Westacott said, with the Islamic calendar and the varying period of Ramadan also a factor.

Speaking with Reuters over the grand prix weekend, Westacott re-affirmed his preference for Australia to hold an early place on the F1 calendar.

“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.”

F1 drivers raise travel concerns amid gruelling schedule

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."

Mercedes F1 driver George Russell has talked up the possibility of Australia returning to its spot as season the season opening grand prix. (Photo by Paul Cross ATPImages/Getty Images)
Mercedes F1 driver George Russell has talked up the possibility of Australia returning to its spot as season the season opening grand prix. (Photo by Paul Cross ATPImages/Getty Images)

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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