Melbourne drives home F1 race extension

The Victorian Coalition Government has secured a five-year extension to its Formula One race deal to ensure that Melbourne will remain the venue for the motor racing series’ season-opener through to 2020.

The new deal takes in races from 2016 to 2020, with Melbourne having hosted the Australian GP since 1996, when it replaced Adelaide on the calendar. The Victorian government said the deal with Formula One Management was struck after 12 months of negotiations, adding that the race is a key promotional tool regarding relations with some of the state’s trading partners such as China, India and Japan.

Premier of Victoria Denis Napthine said: “Formula One is a key pillar of Victoria’s major sporting events strategy. This calendar is unrivalled worldwide, commencing with the Australian Tennis Open and Asian Football Cup in January, followed by the ICC Cricket World Cup in February, the Formula One Australian Grand Prix in March, the AFL Final Series, and the Spring Racing Carnival.

“Within this contract we hope to see Australia’s own Daniel Ricciardo win the Formula One Australian Grand Prix and become world champion. I congratulate Australian Grand Prix Corporation chairman Ron Walker for his success as a tough negotiator in getting the best deal for Victoria.”

The government said the Australian GP alone generates between 351 and 411 full-time equivalent jobs and up to A$39m (€26.9m/$36.6m) of economic benefits per year. Financial terms of the new five-year contract were not disclosed, but the Sunday Herald Sun newspaper said it is “comparable or better’’ than the existing deal due to expire next year. Last year’s grand prix cost Victorian taxpayers $50.67m.

Event organisers have been toying with the idea of changing the Australian GP to a night race, which will not be undertaken through the new deal. The Herald Sun added that Melbourne also won a number of concessions in the race contract, allowing the Albert Park race to be run differently to other nations’ events. This includes Melbourne branding being displayed prominently, support categories such as V8 Supercars being staged in conjunction with the F1 program, and proceeds from corporate hospitality going to the Australian Grand Prix Corporation rather than F1 management in London.

The 2014 Australian GP was won by Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg on March 16.