F1's Newfound Popularity and a Long Hiatus Infuse Life into Australian Grand Prix
Plus: Miami Gardens residents file lawsuit against the Formula 1 race
Ever since the Australian Grand Prix moved from Adelaide to Albert Park in 1996, there have been constant calls for the race to be removed from the calendar. Many would argue that the four-day event was not only a waste of taxpayer dollars but also a misuse of public space for the benefit of commercial interests.
"Locals have never embraced the Grand Prix," Save Albert Park president Peter Goad said, ahead of the eventually abandoned 2020 race. "It's an event which totally disrupts the entire city and the government has been lying about everything from the costs involved to the benefits Melbourne receives from it for years.
"When it started 25 years ago, they said it would not cost taxpayers a cent. Well, we've already spent over AU$1 billion on it. It's an absolute waste of money and, economically, no other sporting event, or any event, comes close in terms of consistently throwing money down the drain."
In 2019, the cost of hosting the Australian Grand Prix was AU$115 million — a figure which covers everything from the race licensing fee to the grandstand construction and deconstruction costs. However, only AU$55 million was returned in sponsorship, ticket sales, and merchandise revenue, meaning the Victorian government needed to tip in AU$60 million in order to reach breakeven, and for the event to be considered somewhat viable.
While the associated costs and financial shortfall have historically been astronomical, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews argues the state nets an impressive AU$40 million economic benefit from tourism spikes, international media exposure, and consumer surplus each year from hosting the race.
And of course, there’s the notion that if you don’t use it or can’t afford it, why buy it.
"I like the Grand Prix, I go to the Grand Prix, but then again I like Ferraris and don't have one because it's too expensive," said former Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Robert Doyle, in 2011.
Such figures, combined with a lack of transparency from event organizers and the government, left many Melburnians feeling disdain towards Formula One and the Australian Grand Prix. The fact is that it’s hitting them right in their pocket without the benefit they’ve been promised.
The 2022 edition of the race down under, however, felt different. The Australians lapped up the return of Formula 1 in their country after a 1,120-day hiatus.
Albert Park, where the Grand Prix runs, saw the largest 3-day event in Formula 1 history with over 419,000 in attendance.
The TV audience in Australia didn’t slow down either.
With a peak national audience of 886,000 viewers, 729,000 average viewers tuned in to see Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc dominate the race from start to finish and extend his championship lead.
In Melbourne, the race commanded 70.7% of viewers under 50, 71.4% in 25 to 54s, and 70.8% in 16 to 39s.
From Friday to Sunday, the 10 Play streaming coverage of the event recorded more than 360,000 live streams, up 75% on 2019.
Former Formula 1 driver and Australian Mark Webber said:
It was incredible to be back at Albert Park and involved with Network 10’s broadcast of the Australian Grand Prix.
This year was bigger and better than ever before and Melbourne pulled out all the stops. It is the perfect setting for a race like this, and the atmosphere was absolutely electric.
The crowd was undoubtedly supporting Daniel Ricciardo, but it was amazing to see a drive like that from Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc on Australian soil.
On the other side of the world, the numbers told a different story. To no surprise, the timing of the Australian Grand Prix made a dent in live US viewership, which for the eastern part of the United States was a 1 am Saturday start.
Lawsuit Seeks to Stop Formula 1’s Miami Race
Weeks before the scheduled debut of Formula 1’s Miami race, local residents are suing to stop the event from happening.
Miami Gardens residents filed a lawsuit to cancel the much-anticipated race on the grounds that noise from the May 6-8 event will “cause severe disruption and physical harm to Miami Gardens residents.”
The plaintiffs, led by former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Betty Ferguson, drew on findings from an engineering firm that the race will produce noise levels up to 97 decibels, “similar to the sound levels produced by a chainsaw,” within a 2.5-mile radius.
Lawyers for both the Hard Rock Stadium and the city of Miami Gardens said the judge should not rule before the city decides if it will issue a special event permit.
Miami-Dade circuit court judge Alan Fine echoed that sentiment, saying “Numerous courts before me have resisted the temptation to jump into something that hasn’t been issued yet. Shouldn’t I wait to see if the city manager issues the special events permit?”