Organisers committed to Australian GP, with or without fans
By Mat Coch
Friday 22nd January, 2021 - 10:37am
Organisers of the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix are committed to the event running on its revised date in November.
That includes being prepared to run it without fans, should the situation at that stage necessitate it.
Melbourne was originally slated to host the opening round of the 2021 Formula 1 season before being postponed to the third last round due to uncertainties surrounding international travel.
While Australian Grand Prix Corporation boss Andrew Westacott hopes that the situation will have eased by then, and fans be able to attend the event, he concedes that may not be possible.
“It’s not a hypothetical that I’m considering at the moment, because I actually think that we will be able to have a crowd,” Westacott, Chief Executive Officer of the AGPC, told Speedcafe.com.
“But the view would be if we’re committed and we’re on the calendar then that’s a commitment that we intend to honour of the Grand Prix Corporation, and so therefore the answer would be, we’d go ahead.
“My preference, and absolute desire is to work through that.
“If we can have the drivers and teams coming here into Australia, we’ll be able to work.
“I’ve said many a time we’ve got 176 hectares of outdoor park; we’ve got 10.6 kilometres of track frontage; we’ve got wonderfully adaptable designs for corporate facilities for grandstands and open air for general admission.
“So, in many regards, Albert Park simulates outdoor parks, footpaths, shopping malls, beaches and entertainment venues.
“And so therefore logic says, why couldn’t there be a crowd as long as we’re making sure that there’s QR codes and traceability everywhere.
“I think we can achieve it really well.
“I’m actually excited by a springtime event nine days before summer, because I think it really is an opportunity to be a special event.”
As a temporary venue, the challenge facing organisers is a decision regarding fans needs to be made well in advance to allow time for construction.
The ability to offer a degree of certainty to ticket purchasers, and the ability to put tickets on sale, are also a key consideration.
“Those decisions need to be made five to six months out is my general view,” Westacott said.
“We need to provide certainty, because without certainty it’s very, very difficult for local and particularly interstate fans to plan holidays and travel, and annual leave from work and the commitments financially to be at the event.
“So we’ve got to commit a fair time out.
“Now, I do put my hand up and say in the world of COVID that’s often at odds with what – long-term planning – is at odds with what COVID produces.
“But with vaccines and us all learning to live with COVID and, things like face masks and health practices, and work practices.
“But we’ll always maintain flexibility, we’ll always have the caveats of health and guidance from government.”
Melbourne is this month set to host the Australian Open tennis tournament, an event viewed as something of a toe in the water for how major events can be managed.
A number of quarantine requirements have been imposed, with their effectiveness being closely monitored by Westacott and his team.
“Really it’s a litmus test at the highest regard,” he said.
“I want it to go smoothly for Victoria, for the Australian Open, for the organisers, for the fans, and I also believe that that can occur.
“It’s all about that risk mitigation, it’s all about processes being put in place, and there’ll be learnings that tighten some procedures, and there’s going to be learnings that maybe allow relaxed or adjusted procedures.
“We’ll watch carefully, we’ll work with quarantine, COVID quarantine Victoria, CQV, we’ll work with DHHS (Department of Health and Human Services) and government to really make sure that whatever they learn out of the Australian Open can be put to benefit to streamline the processes for Formula One, and make it continually safer, and maybe even remove any frustrations for the visiting contingent and also for the people of Melbourne.”
The Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix is scheduled to run over the November 18-21 weekend.