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Hype, excitement the benefits of Melbourne not hosting season-opener


The long-term future of the event has been secured.

Australian Grand Prix Corporation CEO Andrew Westacott feels local Formula 1® fans stand to be big winners from seeing the early rounds of a championship fight set the scene before the sport steps out in Melbourne.

With the long-term future of the event in the Victorian capital being secured with last week's announcement of a new deal to keep F1® in Melbourne until 2035.

This year's Formula 1® Australian Grand Prix was the third round of the 2022 season, and represented just the third time in Melbourne's 25-race tenure on the F1® calendar that Albert Park didn't host the season-opening race. In 2006, Australia was the third round of the season because of a clash with the Commonwealth Games, while the 2010 race was round two.

Speaking to the In the Fast Lane podcast, Westacott said he's become a convert to Australia being one the first rounds of the season rather than the opening race every year, because of the extra attention and hype generated by a storyline that's evolving rather than beginning.

"We'd always coveted the first race, because I think there is something special about the opening race, opening the season, the new liveries, teams … there's a level of freshness," Westacott told the Australian Grand Prix Corporation’s official podcast.

"But in a city like Melbourne, you don't have the ability to generate all the hype and media excitement in the same manner as when there were two (preceding) races. There was already a storyline about Ferrari, the competitiveness of the new cars, porpoising … they became storylines that were building more and more anticipation for people who were new to the sport or showing a level of interest."

After a three-year absence from the calendar, the Formula 1® Australian Grand Prix had a record attendance of over 419,000 in April this year, and the race at the modified Albert Park Grand Prix Circuit came after Red Bull's reigning world champion Max Verstappen and Ferrari's Charles Leclerc fought out thrilling wheel-to-wheel battles in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia before arriving in Melbourne.

"As long as we're race one, two or three and the timing is right – that we're going to be early (in the calendar) – then that works out," Westacott said.

"You can build a lot more storylines, the fans can see what's happened in the opening rounds, whether that be in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia or somewhere else in the future."

The podcast is available on Spotify, Google Podcasts and Apple Podcasts platforms.

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