Far from being a ‘black mark’ against Melbourne’s world renowned reputation to successfully host large scale major events, the decision to postpone the 2021 Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix in Melbourne demonstrates Victoria’s ability to effectively engage with key stakeholders and ensure appropriate risk mitigation strategies are in place to deliver a safe and successful event, says Australian Grand Prix Corporation (AGPC) CEO, Andrew Westacott.
Mr Westacott’s comments come as he joined Victorian Tourism Minister, Martin Pakula at a press conference yesterday morning, where it was confirmed the government and AGPC had successfully negotiated with the Formula 1 World Championship governing body to reschedule Melbourne’s season opening event from Sunday, March 21 to Sunday, November 21.
Mr Pakula noted the highly compressed nature of the Formula 1 season, where 23 races will be staged across the globe in 2021, meant that race teams and support crews would not be able to meet Australia’s current stringent Federal and State Government health protocols that are in place, including a required mandatory 14-day quarantine period.
The Minister remained buoyant that the “world will be in a much better place in 10 months,” given (then) widespread availability of a COVID-19 vaccine and further preparation time enabling “bespoke arrangements” to be well established to meet necessary prevailing health protocols. He noted that changes for 2021 will not impact Victoria’s contract, in place to host the event until at least 2025 and expressed a desire for Melbourne to return to the ‘season opening’ position on the 2022 Formula 1 race calendar.
Mr Westacott provided assurance that the revised event will be delivered in a highly COVIDSafe and compliant manner, given additional “robust planning” that will continue to be undertaken with the benefit of this additional time. He reiterated that Melbourne and Victoria hold a unique position in world sport, being the only location where a Formula 1 race and grand slam tennis tournament are held, a fact that only enhances our state’s reputation as a major event capital of the world. Westacott was also confident that race fans, starved of live sport in recent times, will respond favourably to the news, with larger interstate and international crowds expected to attend the November event as travel restrictions are expected to continually ease.
The Melbourne race has been repositioned between the Sao Paulo event in Brazil on 7 November and the Saudi Arabian grand prix on 5 December. Bahrain will now host the season opener. A revised race season schedule can be found here.