The current maximum Formula One Grand Prix agreed for each year stands at 24. This season will fall one short of that number due to the cancelation of the race in Shanghai due to Covid-19 concerns.
The Chinese GP was scheduled as round 4 of the 2023 season and its date now lies vacant of F1 action following the failure to agree a replacement event in Portugal.
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Yet there are promoters aplenty who want to host a Formula One event as Stefano Domenicali revealed this time last year.
“I would say there is potential to go to 30! In terms of the interest we see all around the world.”
“It is up to us to try to find the right balance considering what are the venues which would like to be in F1, what are the historical values we need to see on the calendar,” explained the F1 supremo.
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F1 historic venues gone
Of course there are F1 stalwarts of history that have fallen by the wayside including the infamous Nurburgring in Germany and the French GP too.
The most recent Concorde agreement binding the teams, the FIA and F1 requires that just 8 of the season’s events are held inside Europe. And given the loose definition applied previously, this includes Baku which for many is the wrong side of the Ural’s and should be counted as Asia.
Most recently the Belgium Grand Prix was under threat, being offered only a one year contract extension for 2023 as South Africa was expected to join the list of F1 venues.
Belgium GP reprieved
The South African bid has imploded with the government recently withdrawing and the promoter failing to make the FIA contract deadline of March 30th 2023. This will presumably bring about a reprieve for the race in Spa-Francorchamps.
Now Australian promoters of the Melbourne GP will be forced to sweat it out while an investigation into safety concerns at this years event is completed.
An inquest into breaches of the International Sporting Code has been launched by the FIA in relation to fan safety and security breaches.
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Lewis Hamilton reported that several fans had ventured onto the circuit before the race had officially ended.
Spectators were seen breaking through fences and bypassing officials in an attempt to gather debris souvenirs while recovery vehicles and cranes were present on the track.
Depending on the FIA’s findings the Australian GP could be suspended from next seasons calendar.
Australian Grand Prix Corporation CEO Andrew Westacott hopes that such drastic measures will be avoided.
Australian GP faces 1 year ban
“I hope there won’t be a ban,” he told Speedcafe.
“I don’t think that’s necessary either. What I would say is clearly, you have primary, secondary and tertiary lines of protection, which are physical infrastructure barriers, and you then have individuals who look after those areas.
“At all times, race marshals are in conversation, via their sector managers up to race control, and importantly, we have security, going back to our team in GP command, which is staffed by about 50 to 60 experts. We also have what’s called an ECC, an Emergency Coordination Centre, that has every emergency service in place.
“With the combination of infrastructure and modified and reviewed plans, which we always have to do, then next year it [fans on track after a race has concluded] can happen and it can happen appropriately, but clearly what happened yesterday was not a good situation.”
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End of race was “confusing”
Westacott claims events were confusing towards the end of the Sunday’s proceedings with fans and officials believing the race to have finished.
“Confusion isn’t an excuse whatsoever”, adds Westacott.
“I just think there was a level of exuberance and excitement, given the large crowds, and given the great race we had and people wanted to get out onto the track, but they did so in a manner that wasn’t safe.”
One of the biggest concerns was that Nico Hulkenberg’s stricken Haas was not yet in safe mode as fans piled onto the track. Given the electrical charge held by modern F1 cars, a mere touch could kill the unwitting bystander.
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Hulkenberg’s car could’ve killed
Hulkenberg is seen jumping from the car below, being particularly careful not to touch the bodywork whilst being connected to the ground.
“We work every year to allow the fans to access the track at the end of the straight after the cars have passed,” added Westacott.
“This was clearly a breach of what is a very robust protocol that’s been developed and improved every year, and a protocol that we look at with the officials from Motorsport Australia, security providers, engineering providers, and Victoria Police. We then not only do table-top exercises, but we actually do simulations out on track to see that it works. Something hasn’t gone quite right.”
FIA inquest set for 3 months
The inquest is set to last for three months and will conclude the day before Andrew Westacott steps down as CEO of the Australian GP Corporation after 15 years in charge.
One of his final contributions was to sign a new 15 year deal with F1, seeing off Adelaide which has a permanent venue with 200,000 plus seating.
The Victorian government ploughs AUS$78m into the F1 event in Melbourne each year, though the economic benefits to the state are said to be in excess of double the number invested.
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Juuuust holding on in there!@HulkHulkenberg stopped right as the chequered flag came out, but still scooped up six points for @HaasF1Team 💪#AusGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/g1sMTrlWm1
— Formula 1 (@F1) April 4, 2023
The Adelaide circuit is/was also wholly temporary but won’t return anyway.
However, I wouldn’t be sad about a Melbourne suspension if something such drastic were to happen.
Regarding the “track invasion” at the Melbourne F1GP, after 17 Grands Prix as a marshal, I attended this year as a spectator. I had a young guy with me who really, really wanted to do the “track invasion” (as a marshal I hated them – but this kid was super persuasive so I agreed to take him through the invasion as safely as I could).
Note that the volunteer marshals around the track were powerless to prevent spectators doing stupid stuff. Marshals are not allowed to make contact with spectators unless it is safe to do so and it is to prevent harm to equipment or infrastructure and there is no other choice. If a spectator is determined to get onto a hot track, all a marshal can do is inform race control so they can call in security and warn drivers.The organisers have paid security people for this stuff.
Where I was planning to enter the track, AFTER the course car track opener (green lights) had passed our point, there was one poor little security guy at our little gap in the fence. We were waiting for the Course Car with the green lights to say the rack was open… we waited. The crowd at our point grew to a couple of hundred. The security guy wedged himself in the gap, but then we saw a stream of people running down the track so the people at our point started booing the guard and they were making threatening noises toward him.
The security guy’s boss made his way forward and yelled at him to let the crowd go. Until he did I was fearing for his safety. There was still no course car.
The instructions were clear on the big screen and on social media. Do not enter the track until the course car went past with green flashing lights.
The failure was with the stupid spectators. They pushed through security and climbed over the 4 metre debris fencing.
I admit that i might be more knowledge about “hot” and “cold” tracks from my marshal experience (in Australia and internationally) but I am not sure what else the organisers could do. To my mind they should never have made the “track invasion” a thing, but that horse had bolted years ago. Maybe armed police at every point rather than paid security?
The people who broke the rules were the spectators.
Thanks for your insight and contribution. Most helpful.
Ban the Australian GP for one year. If stewards can penalise race participants on safety issues, like the Sainz incident, twice, it should be possible to ban the race too on safety grounds and stewards/Marshalls/organizers not doing enough to control the crowd before completion of the race.
I personally would welcome any sports event being suspended in countries like Australia and Canada, no matter the reason.