NSW Deputy Premier muses about AGP in Newcastle

Newcastle East Street Circuit

New South Wales Deputy Premier John Barilaro has suggested that Newcastle could host the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix if Melbourne is unable to again due to COVID-19.

The AGP is one of a number of large events, sporting and cultural, which the NSW Deputy Premier has speculated about taking from Victoria amid a partial shutdown of the southern state’s capital due to the pandemic.

In comments reported by Sydney’s The Daily Telegraph newspaper, Deputy Premier Barilaro described F1 as a “prize” which NSW would be keen to take.

He argued that the arrival of Supercars in Newcastle meant that the state’s second-biggest city has “a lot of infrastructure … in place” to host such an event.

However, Deputy Premier Barilaro also conceded regarding the AGP, “that would be very difficult to try and pinch.”

There are, of course, a number of practical considerations which render a Newcastle grand prix highly unlikely.

The Newcastle East Street Circuit is currently classified FIA Grade 3, below the standard required for F1, and would therefore require rehomologation.

It is also still only 2.641km long after a reprofiling of its Hairpin in time for last year’s Newcastle 500, although Monaco at 3.340km also falls short of the minimum 3.5km length which is notionally stipulated for F1.

Another matter is the significant licence fee which the championship commands, and whether NSW would be willing to subsidise the event to the extent that Victoria does.

The Australian Grand Prix Corporation’s 2018/19 Annual Report lists ‘Government contributions’ of over $67 million and almost another $7 million for ‘future events’ (the latter of which is not itemised between either F1 or MotoGP) in its cash flow statement.

Deputy Premier Barilaro’s ambitions are not restricted to motorsport, however.

He also expressed interest in taking the Melbourne Cup, AFL Grand Final, and a Bledisloe Cup match, the latter of which Sydney would normally host but missed out on due to the anticipated unavailability of Stadium Australia and demolition of the Sydney Football Stadium.

Non-sporting events which he nominated include the Melbourne Comedy Festival, which was cancelled for 2020, and Melbourne Fashion Week.

Supercars’ Newcastle event was also called off for this year, while indications are that F1 will see out its season with races in the Middle East and potentially southeast Asia after at least 10 European rounds.

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