Australian GP managing clash with AFL, but wants Liberty in 2018

While Australian Grand Prix organisers are talking up the events ability to compete with the opening round of AFL, they’ll also be talking to the new owners of Formula One to try and avoid the clash in future.

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AGPC chief executive Andrew Westacott said Thursday that there had already been discussions with Liberty Media chief Chase Carey with a view to the Melbourne race getting clear air in the 2018 sporting calendar after the Formula One season was put back a week this year.

“I think in a Melbourne events calendar where you’ve got something on every day and every week in all of March what we have got to do is make sure there is co-habitation between the events,” Westacott said.

“In an ideal world we’d be the lead up to the AFL season and so if I had my choice for next year I’d be saying we’d go the week before the AFL start and then we have got a happy medium for everyone.

“Opening race of the season is what we are about and the four o’clock timeslot gets us into Asia and lunchtime and those European heartlands of Formula One at breakfast time.”

“We’ve had a number of chats already with the new management of Formula One. They are wonderfully excited about what they are seeing already. We promise to give them one of the best Grand Prix experiences in the world and they are very very keen to take Formula One into the new era and we are very excited to have them here in Melbourne.”

Westacott said he expected strong crowds despite the busy sporting schedule in Melbourne this weekend.

“We are generally around the 300,000 crowd for the four days and an estimated crowd of 100,000. People have talked about the AFL and the clash with our event. The way I see it as a sports fan is that you come along to the Grand Prix during the day and go to the footy in the evenings and that’s the best mix for anyone to get the dose of International sport and local sport that we love so much.

“I don’t think it is affecting us one little bit … Melbourne loves sport. What we have is a purely international sport and a purely locally driven sport. They are co-habitating and that is why Melbourne can accommodate so many sports. We’ve actually got an international triathlon on Beaconsfield Parade on Sunday morning so it all happens in Melbourne.”

Westacott maintains that Liberty Media and local organisers were on the same page in growing the event and promoting it nationally and internationally.

“Chase Carey is a sports fan. He loves giving things to the fans from an entertainment point of view and that is akin and consistent with what [sports] minister [John] Eren has, [AGPC chair] John Harnden has, myself and everyone at the Grand Prix Corporation. We are here for the fan experience.

“I think we are making real inroads into that. Remembering we are not a nation that was born on Formula One … Formula One is this wonderful mix of technolgy and business and sport all coming together in a wonderful season activity.”

On the recent controversy over the continued use of so called “grid girls”, Westacott said there were various roles that helped add to the spectacle of the weekend.

“Well, I don’t buy into that controversy because I see the personnel we have got representing the brands here at the Grand Prix tastefully attired, performing functions and playing a solid role in the event,” he said. “I don’t think there is any objectification of women. In fact all the people I’ve talked to say that they are tastefully attired and add a wonderful spectacle like many other people working at this event.

“That’s something I’m very happy to take up with Formula One and what we actually do have is young karting aspirants and we have children playing a role on the grid holding the flags of nations. But what we have is those grid markers are holding up a very very tall sign to make sure the teams know where to stop on the grid.”