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Record attendance for Aus GP
Melburnians turn out in numbers to witness return of F1 circus
11 Apr 2022
By MIKE FOURIE
AFTER a three-year wait, the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix returned with a flourish in Melbourne at the weekend. The four-day event at Albert Park, which concluded with a win for Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, was attended by a whopping 419,114 people.
More than 128,000 people attended the feature race on Sunday, while 123,247 people were trackside for the qualifying session on Saturday. According to the ABC News, the 419,114 total not only surpassed previous attendance figures – it broke the record for the most people at any Formula 1 grand prix anywhere in the world.
Since the 2019 Australian Grand Prix, the COVID-19 pandemic precluded the event from taking place. It was cancelled at the proverbial eleventh hour in 2020 (after the Formula 1 circus had already arrived at the circuit) and was called off again in 2021. In the meantime, the track had been revised and resurfaced – with two corners being altered and five others widened in a bid to offer more overtaking opportunities.
Apart from the highly anticipated return of Formula 1 racing to Australia, as well as a strong support for local hero, McLaren Mercedes pilot Daniel Ricciardo, it’s also believed a new group of fans attended the event because of the rising popularity of streaming service Netflix’s Formula 1-based reality TV series Drive to Survive.
The Australian Grand Prix, which was supported by a quartet of Repco Supercar Championship races (held on Friday, Saturday and Sunday), was spiced up by the introduction of three drag-reduction zones. In the race, Leclerc, which had secured pole position in an incident filled qualifying session, fended off a challenge by world champion Max Verstappen’s Red Bull. When the Dutchman retired due to mechanical failure, the Monegasque stroked it home to extend his driver’s championship lead.
Suffice to say the event had a carnival atmosphere; Australian Grand Prix Corporation CEO Andrew Westacott told ABC News"the event that kickstarts Melbourne's mojo" after two years of event cancellations and disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I just love that when we all walked around the venue, people were smiling, having fun and rejoicing about what makes our city great," Mr Westacott said.
The Australian Grand Prix Corporation said it would push for the Melbourne race, which set its previous attendance record in 1996 (401 000), to be reinstated as the F1 season-opener, or be part of a double or triple-header with other races in the region.
"It's a long way to come along to Melbourne for a single race," Andrew Westacott said. "MotoGP do it really well in the back end of the year where they have Malaysia, Japan and Australia in consecutive rounds.
"It might be possible to do that from a Formula 1 point of view, but it's not possible right now from a scheduling perspective," he added.
ABC News quoted Victoria’s Deputy Premier James Merlino as saying that the GP’s record attendance was a sign Melbourne was returning to pre-COVID-19 levels.
"The city was just buzzing over the weekend and [it was] a great success," Mr Merlino said. "Just the images of Melbourne that are broadcast to hundreds of millions of people worldwide, it is a great advertisement for our state and for our city."
The City of Melbourne estimates about $30 million was pumped into businesses in the CBD over the past five weeks thanks to the Midweek Melbourne Money scheme.
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