Dull race fails to take shine from AGP

Tom Howard

Monday 16th March, 2015 - 4:00am

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Lewis Hamilton celebrates victory in Sunday's Australian Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton celebrates victory in Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix

Australian Grand Prix Corporation CEO Andrew Westacott has labelled the 2015 event its best yet, despite a lacklustre race on Sunday afternoon.

The race was dominated by the two Mercedes entries, with local hero and event poster boy Daniel Ricciardo left to scrap for the minor places with his inferior Red Bull-Renault.

Further detracting from the spectacle was the fact that only 15 cars took the start, with just 11 drivers reaching the chequered flag.

While the state of Formula 1’s sporting and political landscapes both came under criticism throughout the weekend, Westacott says the issues failed to detract from a stellar event.

“At the end of the day we cannot control the sporting side of it, but what we can control we nailed,” Westacott enthused to Speedcafe.com.

“You got to work with the cards you are dealt with but I think what we did was put on the best event we have ever done; we had so many new initiatives.

“Yields are up so we will have a revenue increase of 5-7 percent approximately but we will have to see all the final numbers.

“A crowd of 101,000 (up marginally on 2014’s Sunday figure) is a great effort.”

Westacott praised a series of initiatives aimed to improve fan interaction at the event which were instigated by the AGPC with the blessing of Formula One Management.

Fans were given more access to drivers with the new Melbourne Walk area leading to the Formula 1 paddock attracting big crowds of autograph hunters.

The addition of a public question and answer session attended by a selection of drivers also helped connect the fans to the stars.

The AGPC chairman believes moves such as these show that F1 is concerned about enhancing its appeal with the general public.

“I think F1 is addressing the issues (of fan interaction); there were many initiatives done at this event for the first time,” he said.

“We had a fan forums, the Melbourne Walk and the press conference done with a public viewing platform, that sort of thing wouldn’t have happened last year.

“Formula 1, the FIA and the teams are committed to doing something, at least at Melbourne they voted with their feet, we had to drive them but they did it.”

FOM has also increased its social media presence for the new season, adding a Youtube account to its recently created Twitter platform.

The AGP meanwhile enjoyed a strong run across the weekend with the local mainstream press, which is notorious for criticising the cost of staging the race.

Positive sentiment was undoubtedly stirred by suggestions that rival city Sydney could look to steal the grand prix, which has been held in Melbourne for the last 20 years.

The idea of such a move was quickly scotched by outing AGPC chairman Ron Walker, who led negotiations over Victoria’s current contract, which runs until 2020 with a further five-year option.