‘Hard bargain’ driven to keep Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park

The Australian Grand Prix will remain at Albert Park until at least 2035 after the Victorian government signed a 10-year contract extension, saying it had to drive a hard bargain in the face of extreme competition to retain the event.

Martin Pakula, Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events, said the government’s success made it the longest contract extension since the race was brought to Melbourne from South Australia in 1996.

The race is here to stay, Pakula said at a press conference on Thursday morning.

It’s an Australian icon, and the fact that we’ll be here until at least 2035 is something that all motor racing fans, all major event fans and hopefully all Victorians can be very, very excited about.

The program will be expanded to include Formula 2 and Formula 3 from next year, as well as retaining Supercars and a minimum of five season-opening races over the 13-year period. When Melbourne does not host the opening race of the season, the city is guaranteed to host one of the first three races of the year, Pakula said.

The global competition for this event is hot, Pakula said.

You can see the benefits of it. For the first time in a few years we’ve had over 90 per cent hotel occupancy in Melbourne over the [F1] weekend. We had tens of thousands of visitors from each state.

Pakula said that given the grand prix’s global interest, it was unsurprising other states and countries would want to host it, only publicly naming South Australia and Queensland as competitors.

It was not a fait accompli. We had to work very hard, Pakula said.

We don’t have the harbour, we don’t have the Gold Coast. We have the city, our beautiful regions and our major events calendar that drag people into this state and give Melbourne a global profile.

for the event to be held in Sydney, and said after the decision was announced on Thursday that the Formula 1’s rightful place is in Sydney.

It’s a loss for the F1. That is all I can say, he said.

It’s going to be a really disappointing event for years to come until it comes to its rightful place in Sydney.

Formula 1 is a global event and we are truly Australia’s only global city, so I think in time they will work that out. Good luck to Melbourne.

Peter Logan, spokesperson for Save Albert Park, opposed the 10-year extension. He said misleading costs and attendance figures, as well as the impact on Albert Park usage, remained reasons why the Grand Prix should be relocated.

We’re suckers, Logan said.

There’s only about 38,000 grandstand seats, so the crowd numbers [provided by the state government] are impossible to fit around the rest of the track since there’s so little space.

Logan cited a of the Australian Grand Prix done for the Auditor-General in 2005 that revealed a net economic loss for Victoria. According to that report, the estimated costs of the event exceeded the benefits to Victorian taxpayers by 5 per cent.

It’s a loser for the state. All it does is cost the state of Victoria a lot of money, said Logan.

And it’s hurting sporting clubs. It’s four months of going in and out of park grounds. They’re left in a total mess when they leave, Logan said.

What are parks for? Not to trash every year for four months.

Pakula would not say how much the contract extension cost the Victorian government, saying the state could lose its hosting rights if the figure went public.

Once you take out one of the pillars of our major events calendar, the whole edifice starts to crumble. We’ve got Formula 1, the AFL grand final, the Melbourne Cup Carnival, the Boxing Day Test and the Australian Open. Those are the pillars and we absolutely as a state, as a city and as a community need to retain those pillars, he said.

Pakula said all costs would be detailed in annual financial reports.

We have driven a hard bargain in the face of extraordinary competitiveness. We are absolutely 100 per cent convinced the massive increase in global interest in Formula 1, millions of additional eyeballs, absolute engagement of people from all walks of life – young and old, men and women – that the retention of this race until 2035 is in the interest of Victorians, Pakula said.

, generating $92 million of direct spending in the economy and boosting Victoria’s gross state product by $171 million, according to a recent economic impact assessment.

Australian Grand Prix Corporation chief executive Andrew Westacott attributed the Formula 1’s popularity to the rise of young drivers and . Calling Melbourne the breeding ground for the next generation of great Australian racers, he said the extension was a strong development, particularly for motorsport in the Asia Pacific region.

It’s a massive industry, a massive ecosystem, Westacott said.

We’re going to do all we can to continue to make sure that this event is the best Formula One event in the world, building on the success of 2022. It’s just a great decision.

F1 president and chief executive, Stefano Domenicali, said he was overjoyed to see the Grand Prix remain in Melbourne for the long-term.

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, he said.

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