The Formula 1 circus will be collectively sighing with relief with the news that the Australian Grand Prix will stay on the calendar until at least 2020.
Melbourne is a favourite destination for the F1 community – along with Montreal – and the idea that it might drop off the calendar was rather depressing.
Local whingers in Victoria do manage to create a fair amount of noise, protesting that the event costs the state too much money, but government after government – from both sides of Australia’s political spectrum – have realised that the whingers don’t know what they are talking about and the event is great value for money for the city of Melbourne and the state of Victoria.
“Formula 1 is a key pillar of Victoria’s major sporting events strategy,” says the state premier Denis Napthine.
“Within this contract we hope to see Australia’s own Daniel Ricciardo win the 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 new contract will be Walker’s last major contribution to the Australian Grand Prix. He stands down as chairman of the Grand Prix Corporation next year.
The details of the new contract have not been announced but the negotiations have been going on for 12 months.
Napthine and his administration may not be around by the time the next Australian GP happens because his centre-right Liberal/National Coalition has to survive the November 29 state election against an Australian Labor Party opposition, led by Daniel Andrews, which is marauding through the opinion polls at the moment.
The government says that the major events strategy contributes $1.3 billion (about £720m) annually to the Victorian economy and generates around 3500 jobs. The Australian Grand Prix itself generates around 400 full-time jobs and direct economic benefit of $36m (roughly £20m), although the politicians believe that it is worth a great deal more than that because it showcases Melbourne and attracts tourists from all over the world.
The state’s auditor-general refuses to include any estimates of the intangible benefits in its accounting and thus works on the principle that there is zero intangible economic benefit for Victoria from the Australian Grand Prix.
One can argue about the numbers but to claim no impact at all is plain silly and plays into the hands of the protesters who say that the race is not worth the investment.
Formula 1 came to Melbourne in 1996 and in 2015 will celebrate 20 years at Albert Park. The race is expected to kick off the season as usual on March 15.