Australian GP – The great F1 experience – But for how much longer ?

melbourne australia

As you may have realized from my few previous posts and from the photos I came to Melbourne to see the opening race of the 2008 Formula 1 season. Last few years I went to Sepang, 5 hours shorter trip, but this time I decided to go to Melbourne and see how Aussies do it.

First I was a bit disapointed with not too much information about and promotion of the Grand Prix in Melbourne. But that is where for me as a fan the disapointments ended.

The biggest issue I usually face when coming to the race is the logistic of actually getting to the race. That is not an issue in Melbourne at all. Of course the location of the track in the city helps a lot but you still have to get there somehow. Over the whole course of the F1 weekend there were special tram services to and from the Albert Park. And as I found out from a very talkative taxi driver and got confirmed by the tram people, the F1 ticket was all that was needed to ride on public transport …

The races in Shanghai and Sepang may have excellent purpose built facilities, but try to get something decent to eat or drink there … That is not an issue at all in Melbourne. All over the F1 venue there are plenty of places serving all sorts of food, 5-6 different beers, wine, Lavazza coffee. In direct contrast with the greed of Mr. Ecclestone there is free drinking water all around the Albert Park. And that sure came very handy during the hot F1 weekend this year.

The program never stops on and above the track. There are no other open wheel races besides F1 on program. But this is more than compensated by the V8 Supercar race, celebrity challenge race, historical racing cars show, and some other local racing. When there was no racing, there were stuntmen on motorbikes. When there was no one on the track, there were stuntmen in the air in acrobatic planes or airforce pilots in F18 fighter jets.

I was quite surprised also by the size of the crowd on Saturday morning. These 2 pictures are from morning practice sessions:

Australian GP crowd

Australian GP crowd

Even in Germany or Monaco the stands were barely half full during the practice sessions and filled up for qualifying only. In Shanghai the grandstands did not fill up even for the race last year. Here in Melbourne 46,000 people came to see the the Thursday program this year (support races, autograph sessions, no F1 cars on track).

I went to races in Asia, in Europe but the experience was nothing compared to Australian Grand Prix. It would be a big shame if this race goes …

But to be fair, not everybody in Melbourne is keen on having the race. How big the unhappy crowd is I can’t estimate. I did not do any opinon poll or scientific research. I read few angry comments from local residents in the Redbulletin on Saturday morning, I saw a bloke staging this little exhibition just outside the gate 1:

Australian GP loss

Australian GP not hot

If the race is to continue first of all Melbourne has to want to keep it. Once they are sure they want to go on they need to calculate how much the race costs them and how much it brings. For the organizers it is easy to calculate the profit and loss. For the city of Melbourne or the Victoria state it is not that simple math. If they only calculate the money they put into the race, yes, sure, they loose a lot. But if used smartly the Formula 1 event can be used as a big marketing tool for the city, for the state and for the country. And that is where Melbourne does not do enough. They have the opening race with millions of after winter break hungry fans. They have great venue. The drivers love coming here. The fans (not only me :-) ) enjoy the race weekend here. The grandstands are full and we are talking about country where F1 is far from being the most popular sport. They need to make use of it. Right now, even if you are in Melbourne on Thursday before the race weekend, you may easily miss the fact there is F1 in town …

4 Comments Post a Comment
  1. F1 BettingNo Gravatar says:

    I thin there are a few circuits that could learn a thing or two from the Aussies. A few friends I know went out there for the race and they said the service, facilities and general race-going atmosphere out there was the best in years. They love their sport out there and seem to get the organisation spot on, knowing how to keep the fans happy. That, sadly, is not something we can say about Silverstone.

  2. sidepodcastNo Gravatar says:

    “They love their sport out there and seem to get the organisation spot on, knowing how to keep the fans happy. That, sadly, is not something we can say about Silverstone.”

    agree completely.

    i haven’t read a bad word about the organisation. a far cry from singapore or fuji.

    sidepodcast’s last blog post..Inside Track – Kuala Lumpur Preview

  3. F1WolfNo Gravatar says:

    Singapore haven’t done any race yet :-) They only screw up the ticket sales so far

  4. RajNo Gravatar says:

    Apparently Mr Eclestone also has an issue with the timing of races in Melbourne, since Europe (F1’s biggest audience is in Europe) runs behind Australia in time and it’s night in Europe, so, European Fans don’t watch the Aussie GP unless they stay awake. Eclestone wants the races in Australia to be held at night, the Albert park people have to tried to make Bernie agree for a race held under powerful lights while it’s twilight in Australia, but Bernie as has been reported in papers is not happy with that as well….

    Raj’s last blog post..Change of look for this blog

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