Australian Grand Prix needs “revitalising”

F1 Fanatic round-up

Jacques Villeneuve, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Williams, Melbourne, 1997In the round-up: The Australian government says its race needs to bring in more revenue.

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Your daily digest of F1 news, views, features and more.

Plans to rev up ailing grand prix (The Age)

“The government signalled it would embark on efforts aimed at ‘revitalising’ the event ahead of negotiations to renew the contract when it expires in 2015.”

McLaren-Cheftechniker zu Mercedes (Bild, German)

Bild claims Paddy Lowe will follow Lewis Hamilton from McLaren to Mercedes.

Motoring journalist forced to pay ??110k to Porsche owner?? after test drive blew up the engine (SWNS)

“Mr Hales, an experienced race driver and journalist, claimed he entered a gentleman?s agreement with Mr Piper so any mechanical damage was covered by the owner. But the former F1 racer [David Piper], 82, denied any conversation existed and took Hales to the High Court last week seeking ??48,000 in damages.”

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Comment of the day

@Andae23 says Marussia deserve some credit for how they handled the loss of Timo Glock:

Sad to see Glock go.

I?m happy though that John Booth is honest about it: Marussia made an official statement, in which Booth explains that although they would love to continue with Timo, that is financially not possible for them. In the past, we?ve seen many experienced drivers leave a team without any official statement from the team about their department ?ǣ usually it is one small paragraph, Marussia made it an entire article.

Hope other teams can learn from this.
@Andae23

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65 comments on Australian Grand Prix needs “revitalising”

  1. OmarR-Pepper (@omarr-pepper) said on 22nd January 2013, 0:19

    The typical problem to make a race more profitable is that if Bernie wants more money, he will ask gazillions to the organizers, who, at the same time (and obviously) want to see the profits increased, so the tickets rise up and LESS people crowd the facilities, bringing down the desired effect of “MORE PRICE –> MORE INCOME”. If they could lower the prices just a little, it would probably get more people to the event and increase the money collected.

    • Yorricksfriend (@yorricksfriend) said on 22nd January 2013, 1:48

      Having attended the Aus GP in recent years – attendance is not their problem. It’s bewildering that the race runs at a loss.

      • Adam B (@lurker) said on 22nd January 2013, 4:27

        A problem I lay squarely at the feet of CVC partners and one Mr B Ecclestone.

        Yes, I did buy a 4 day ticket at $320, and will be attending the Grand Prix for the first time since Adelaide ’94. Yes I feel unclean for lining Ecclestone’s crystal bog with yet more garish features. Its a shame that may never leave me.

        That said, I would do many unspeakable, unholy things if it would mean that I could orchestrate a return of the Australian GP to Adelaide. I would be first to kiss Mr E’s signet ring if that happened.

        I still say that alternating years between Melbourne and Adelaide, where each party gets both the F1 and V8s on alternate years would be an excellent idea.

    • Scottie (@scottie) said on 22nd January 2013, 9:07

      yeah I’m baffled! I’ve been to every weekend in Oz since 1998 and lately the events seemed like it’s been a fantastic success with the fans. There’s heaps of great attractions around the park to keep the less-enthused of us entertained between F1 sessions, and the weather is usually fantastic too. I really don’t know what The Age is on about, but as @yorricksfriend says, it’s amazing it still runs at a loss.

      • GT_Racer said on 22nd January 2013, 13:39

        One of the reasons for the loss is actually the cost of setting up the circuit.

        Don’t forget Melbourne isn’t a permanent facility so all the barriers, temp grandstands etc… need to be stored for a year, transported to the circuit, setup & then taken down & transported to storage again until the next year. All that cost’s money & its a cost that permanent facilities don’t have to deal with which is why the Melbourne government were looking at building a permanent facility somewhere.

        I also gather that attendance was down slightly over the past 2 years & that the track sponsorship revenue also saw a big drop.

        Something else that F1 fans tend to ignore is that while its a popular event amongst the F1 community & F1 fans who attend, outside of that the local government & a fair portion of the local population would rather the race not be held there.

        The race in Adelaide was much better supported by the locals than Melbourne has ever been which is why the circuit is still used by the V8 Supercars.

  2. Tyler (@tdog) said on 22nd January 2013, 0:24

    I see links to the Age appear here from time to time, of articles generally of a critical tone towards the costs of the Australian GP and the event generally (no criticism intended Keith!).

    For those not from Australia, the Age has a decidely leftish bent (think Guardian on the Yarra) and has a readership which is not, as a generality, favourably disposed to motorsport.

    Amongst the broader community however, the race is reasonably popular (not for nothing is it one of the best attended GPs anywhere) and I have little doubt the State Government will find a way to renew the race contract. Bernie will however have to bring the price down, but that seems to happening all over the place.

    • Colossal Squid (@colossal-squid) said on 22nd January 2013, 0:30

      Good to hear from someone ‘on the ground’ what the popular opinion of the race is. It seems that there’s been a fair few negative articles written on the GP over the last year or so. I love Melbourne, it’d be a real shame to see it in danger of leaving the calendar! Hopefully as you say the State Government will fight to keep it.

    • notTheStig (@iamnotthestig) said on 22nd January 2013, 0:46

      Exactly, The Age does not care one bit for motorsport and it’s definitely reflected in their Australian GP articles. Even when Webber wins all we get is a small slab of text on the side of the page with a heading like “Webber Wins” and the content is basically who was on the podium.

  3. tandrews (@tomand95) said on 22nd January 2013, 1:16

    I remember last year in the lead up to the race, the Australian GP was actually reasonably well supported by the press for the first time in many years. But it seems as we get closer to the race’s contract expiring in 2015, the debate is going to heat up again.

    It annoys me when the Australian Open is treated differently to the Grand Prix by the media. No one complains when the prize money at the tennis is raised and when they start a redevelopment of Melbourne Park Tennis Centre that cost tax payers over $360 million, which is the same as hosting 6 races! Sometimes the grand prix is treated like a one off circus event or gimmick rather than a sport that has a world wide following.

    I’ve attended the last 2 grand prix’s at Albert Park and the crowds have been strong(especially in 2012) so i can’t see them making up the $60 million deficit alone by ticket sales or clever advertising, so they have to find a way to get the cost of the event down. Whether by reducing set-up and construction costs or somehow lowering the race fee when negotiating for 2015. At least the state government is trying to do something about it and support an great event in their own city, unlike the Melbourne Lord Mayor who tries to bring down the GP at every opportunity he gets.

    • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 22nd January 2013, 1:26

      But it seems as we get closer to the race’s contract expiring in 2015, the debate is going to heat up again.

      I wouldn’t go reading too much into it. These stories pop up round this time every year (though there weren’t any in 2012, and this year’s edition is about two weeks earlier than usual), primarily because the Grand Prix is a huge public event, and the cost is so high – it’s a favourite issue of politicians to raise in order to try and score political points with the people. The fans think the price is too high, so they’ll naturally want to see any reduction. The doubters think the sport should go away, so they’ll support any negotiations that could see Melbourne lose the Grand Prix. And the cost of running the race is so great and the event so public that the average man (or woman) on the street who doesn’t care one way or the other for motorsports will have to make a decision when asked what they think of the high cost and the government supporting it. So every year – like clockwork – some politician or other likes to give a soundbyte or two about how they’re going to renegotiate with Bernie and get the best deal for Melbourne and the state of Victoria. Then the race passes and the issue doesn’t come up again for another year, when another polticians makes noise about it.

    • Mark Young (@terry-fabulous) said on 22nd January 2013, 2:45

      Well said!

  4. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 22nd January 2013, 1:21

    In light of Glock leaving Marussia, Dieter Rencken reckons Paul di Resta’s head is also on the chopping block, particularly if the team undergoes a change in ownership.

    • dpod (@dpod) said on 22nd January 2013, 3:21

      It would be quite disappointing to see Paul leave too. He’s far from being a WDC, but he’s definitely worthy of a mid-table drive.

      • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 22nd January 2013, 4:10

        Following the link in the above story, it would appear that a bid for the team has been made. Force India denied that they are in trouble, but reading between the lines a bit, that is all that they denied – they haven’t denied that there was a bid in the first place.

        According to the story, this bid was made by Colin Kolles, leading a group of German investors. And from the sounds of things, this isn’t the first time they’ve tried to buy a team. About six weeks ago, Christian Nimmervoll – one of the authors of this story – Tweeted that “bid for takeover of winning #Formula1 team was declined yesterday”, but gave no further information. Running parallel to this are reports that Gerard Lopez and Eric Lux were looking to sell Lotus F1, and had made some progress with a potential buyer until Kimi Raikkonen won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and Lopez and Lux put the price up, at which point the buyers lost interest. Those talks broke down early in December, around the same time Nimmervoll made that unexplained Tweet.

        I would not be surprised if the people looking to buy Lotus are the same people who made a bid for Force India. The money seems to be coming from Germany, and I’ve heard talk that as part of the buy-out of Force India, the investors want an all-German driver line-up, or at least one German driver. The identities of the bidders have not been revealed, but if I had to guess, I’d say that Franz Hilmer is integral to it. He runs Formtech GmbH, which is described as a “supplier” to Formula 1 teams, though quite what the company supplies is not clear. He also acquired the assets of Super Aguri when they folded in 2008, submitted a bid to join the grid under the Brabham name in 2010, and recently established Hilmer Motorsport, a team which is replacing Ocean Racing Technology in GP2 this season.]

        In that case, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hilmer take control of the team and put Adrian Sutil in one of the cars. Jules Bianchi would be an ideal choice for the second seat, because he would bring subsidised Ferrari engines, unless Hilmer could renegotiate with Mercedes to get a better engine deal in exchange for keeping di Resta. Or, as an even more out-there idea, the team could take Timo Glock. As @bascb mentioned yesterday, it is widely expected that Glock will make his future known soon, implying that he has known for some time that his position at Marussia was under threat, and has made plans accordingly. The other drivers consider it unlikely that he will race in Formula 1 in 2013, but everything lines up quite neatly: a German driver becomes available around the same time that German investors are looking at buying into a team and are believed to want German drivers for it. And if their hearts are set on creating a German All-Stars team, why not keep the Mercedes engines and get Michael Schumacher in (since Mercedes have suggested he could take on a management role within the team after he left). It’s an extreme scenario, but we could see Sutil and Glock driving for MSC Hilmer-Mercedes in 2013. The only thing missing would be Nico Hulkenberg.

        • Tyler (@tdog) said on 22nd January 2013, 4:55

          @prisoner-monkeys I must say I have been wondering, in recent days, about how secure Paul di Resta’s position is for 2013.

          I had thought that the delay in naming the lineup for 2013 must be a result of protracted negotiations with Sutil/Bianchi’s backers (whether that be the team wanting to see evidence of the backers’ funds, or the backers wanting confirmation as to Force India’s ongoing viability before committing their money). The complication of the 2014 engine situation, and the possibility of a Bianchi/Ferrari tie up must also slow things down.

          However they must surely be beyond that by now, and the delay is looking more like the result of a team which can’t make any committments until its ownership is resolved.

          Could we see possibly a launch of the 2013 car on 1 February without any drivers present?

        • Jeff Bird (@jedoublef91) said on 22nd January 2013, 11:38

          Far out that sounds like it actually could happen.

  5. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 22nd January 2013, 3:12

    Jose Abed, one of the FIA’s Vice-Presidents, says that Mexico is ready to host a Grand Prix in 2014:

    http://espndeportes.espn.go.com/news/story?id=1706214&s=mot&type=story

    The link is in Spanish, though.

    • William (@william) said on 22nd January 2013, 4:31

      I truly hope Mexico is on the calendar as well as Cape Town and Argentina either next year or the year after as Thailand has a contract starting in 2015. It sounds like they are enthusiastic about staging a race

    • Abed looked after the Mexico grand prix ’86 – ’92 i think. Claims it was good business all around then. It was certainly fun.
      The Slim family are putting assets in place -two young, popular drivers, engagement with a team (s?) -a home race can follow… Somewhere i saw an estimate of ~$50M. For a sell-out race and a 5-year contract, plus side-business & prestige… i’d say it’s on.

  6. GeeMac (@geemac) said on 22nd January 2013, 5:08

    It was really good to see all of the messages from the other drivers on twitter yesterday expressing their shock at Glock’s departure from Marussia. It goes to prove that there is a level of repsect among the drivers that I doubt we’ll ever understand.

    • andae23 (@andae23) said on 22nd January 2013, 6:13

      Agreed, it was one of the most moving things I’ve seen in F1 for a while.

      • coefficient (@coefficient) said on 22nd January 2013, 12:03

        Moving? It was nice they made the effort to show some support but moving? I don’t see it myslef.

        • andae23 (@andae23) said on 22nd January 2013, 13:41

          @coefficient I called it moving for two reasons. First there is not much sympathy to be found in Formula 1, so anything that has to do with emotion is already a break-through. Second, some of the reactions (including Massa’s interview) showed some doubt whether it is good for Formula 1 to let good drivers like Glock go for someone with $$$. It almost felt like a turning-point: the straw that breaks the camel’s back. It was certainly one of the first times in many years that drivers are so outspoken about something.

    • Deo Adeva (@deovann07) said on 25th January 2013, 19:05

      Well Timo will be thankful for the other drivers. Wishing him the best. But it’s not the end of his career motor racing is waiting for him again.

      – Shock! Paddy Lowe following Hamilton in Mercedes. Don’t think McLaren will click without Paddy Lowe.

  7. andae23 (@andae23) said on 22nd January 2013, 6:37

    Here’s a small article about the Lowe to Mercedes story in English:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/motorsport/formulaone/mclaren/9817029/Mercedes-ready-to-lure-top-engineer-Paddy-Lowe-away-from-McLaren-ahead-of-new-season.html

    Not many lines are actually devoted to Lowe, but it does say that “it is understood that there is substance to the story”.

    • Bild has been right about a couple of things last few days so far. I wonder if Mercedes has the collection yet, geez. How many technical directors can you hire?

    • James (@spirals) said on 22nd January 2013, 13:14

      The BBC have now run with this, apparently corroborated independently from their in-house Mercedes speculator, Eddie Jordan. They also claim Ross Brawn and Nick Fry are on their way out, and that Paddy Lowe had previously agreed to a transfer to Williams, though hasn’t yet got a contract with Mercedes.
      http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/formula1/21143847

      • JCost (@jcost) said on 22nd January 2013, 14:52

        @spirals

        Seems that something big is about to happen. Maybe Lewis first year will be anything but smooth…

        • James (@spirals) said on 22nd January 2013, 16:19

          It certainly seems like there isn’t much point in Lewis getting to know the current team members! Lewis will only really be seen to fulfill his potential at Mercedes if he builds a team of great people around himself and ends up challenging for championships in the not too distant future – I wonder if the draw of Hamilton makes the team more attractive for incoming personnel or whether it’s just money talking.

  8. Armchair Expert (@armchairexpert) said on 22nd January 2013, 7:49

    OT: Thanks for posting that picture Keith, such great memories, last year of beautiful, simple, wide cars with slicks. 1997 McLaren was simply gorgeous. Maybe one day we will be back to 2 metres wide track

  9. Spawinte (@spawinte) said on 22nd January 2013, 8:59

    I’m getting worried that the over formalized atmosphere at McLaren is driving people away.

    • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 22nd January 2013, 9:33

      @spawinte – I don’t think the atmosphere at McLaren is anything to worry about. Drivers who join the team know what they are getting themselves into, so they can’t exactly turn around and complain about it once the team asks them to make good on the promises they made when they first signed up.

      No, I think the reason why Hamilton left McLaren was frustration with the lack of results. Throughout the first half of the season, they threw away positions with frequent pit mistakes. In the second half, they were palgued by mechanical problems. If it weren’t for either of those, Hamilton probably would have been a championship contender, if not champion. And he also said that a big part of the appeal in joining Mercedes lay in taking an under-performing team and turning them around. On a certin level, I think he might have gotten a little bored with always being at the front from the start of the season, and that he would find winning more satifying if it was that little bit more challenging.

      • Jeff Bird (@jedoublef91) said on 22nd January 2013, 11:31

        I think Lewis was told of the Mercedes plan we see unfolding right now and though it would grant them a very fast car in 2014 (a very good possibility) so he thought it take a year of a mid field car on the chin for 2 years of a fast car (hopefully for his sake) and maybe more if it is, if its not he’s young enough and 3 years isn’t too much.

        If you ask me the problems he had with McLaren didn’t make him leave they just made him feel less guilty for leaving

        Of course 60M would have had to be pretty tempting too.

  10. Chris (@tophercheese21) said on 22nd January 2013, 9:38

    When the Victorian Govt. says they want to improve the marketing of the event and cut costs at the same time (in no small part to Bernie charging a ridiculous amount to host a GP, which is why we’re seeing all these new Asian and Arabian races and fewer classic European races); I have one idea as to how they can cut costs and improve the event.

    I went to the 2011 GP (From Perth), and throughout the entire w/e (before, during and after cars were on track) they had all these stupid sideshow “entertainments” like Motorcross riders riding in a mesh ball, and jet skiers on the lake side doing backflips, and other things of that nature. And quite frankly, no one gave a stuff about them, and rightly so, they were completely irrelevant. Cutting those probably wont save too much money, but some is better than nothing.

    • Chris (@tophercheese21) said on 22nd January 2013, 9:42

      It’s a case of; “Less is more”.

      We’re there to watch Formula 1, not pointless sideshow entertainments.

      The one good thing they did however, was they had car clubs come and display their cars in the grounds outside the race track. It was actually interesting, seeing all the amazing cars. (Astons, Corvettes, Ferrari’s, Lamborghini’s etc.) so that’s one thing they should definitely keep.

    • plushpile (@plushpile) said on 22nd January 2013, 10:37

      They should add Sidetracked to the savings list
      How many people went to the Grand Prix last year just to see Flo Rida? None, OK.

      Slightly more seriously the concert after the race is something thats been happening since the race was in Adelaide, and for the casual fan would add to the overall ‘event’, butî really think they missed the boat with Flo Rida

      • Jeff Bird (@jedoublef91) said on 22nd January 2013, 11:08

        I’m from Adelaide and went to the GP last year and I think sidetracked isn’t such a bad idea if it was structured like the Adelaide’s Clipsal 500 concerts for the V8’s but it seems to target international markets too much and that only works with very big acts (not Flo Rida) so they should use popular Aussie acts to attract the local market (last year Art Vs Science were quite popular at the event) AND most importantly include it in the ticket prices rather than forcing people to pay extra.
        I will often go after work on a Friday (miss out on the racing/maybe catch the end of it) at the Clipsal 500 and pay the general admission just to see an act I like. I could imagine a lot of more people attending these Sidetracked concerts if they were just setup better.

        In regards to saving money by cutting out the sideshow entertainment I couldn’t imagine it saving much money but I do agree with you, I didn’t even know they had any of that when I went.

        What I would like to see though is GP2/3 that would make it much more exciting having some good support races with up and coming F1 drivers. I’ve been to Phillip Island for the GP too and that works so well there. I know that wouldn’t reduce cost I just wanted to say how much I want it at Melbourne.

        If you ask me Melbourne won’t reinvest in F1 because its not an investment for them anymore it will be a big loss for AussieF1Fans so lets hope Bernie decides it might be best to lower the fees.

    • Hairs (@hairs) said on 22nd January 2013, 13:10

      For the casual f1 fan, or the partner dragged to the event against their will, sideshow events are all to the good, surely?

      Not everyone wants to spend all the time between sessions comparing notes about strategy possibilities. Many don’t want to go to free practice at all.

      It’s extremely unlikely the sideshows cost all that much compared to the race fee, and it makes for a less sterile environment. Making the race weekend less attractive for casual fans doesn’t seem like a winning strategy…

  11. Chris (@tophercheese21) said on 22nd January 2013, 10:17

    It’s ironic that Force India have just named “Speedy Services” as an official supplier, yet their driver lineup announcement has been anything but that.

  12. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 22nd January 2013, 11:00

    So Mercedes could end up with yet another technical guy? How on Earth Brawn will manage all that I don’t know!

  13. Jeff Bird (@jedoublef91) said on 22nd January 2013, 11:25

    When it comes to the cost of hosting a GP these days its become so ridiculous we have almost no chance to see any of the great old tracks, with the cost of upgrading a track to modern day F1 standards it doesn’t make sense for the owners to upgrade the track to modern standards then only to get slugged with increased fee’s year after year just to continue to host a GP.

    I would love to see a modern day race on some of the older circuits (Zandvoort especially) but I doubt it will happen. A more likely scenario in my eyes is that F1 inadvertently culls all but the biggest European races (Monaco, Spa, Silverstone, Monza) leaving the calendar very Asian and Arabic based and in turn (mixed with pay TV getting the rights) the main fan base will have less access to races and will lose interest (at least the ‘casual’ fans)

    I don’t know if anyone agrees with me here but that is my 1 cent (Bernie took the other cent)

    • HoHum (@hohum) said on 22nd January 2013, 15:14

      I agree with you, Jeff, I think Bernies role in F1 has been a total disaster and will lead to ruin for F1, of course Bernie will continue to make out like a bandit for the rest of his life but F1 is in terminal decline, it cannot continue giving away 50% of Gross revenue and continue the tradition of innovation that differentiated F1 from other racing series.

  14. Girts (@girts) said on 22nd January 2013, 11:49

    The financial losses suffered by the organisers of the Australian Grand Prix look worrying. I believe that one of the reasons why F1 now races in more undemocratic countries than in the past is that it’s easier to get the money there. Their governments can afford to sponsor unprofitable events as they don’t have to account for that to angry taxpayers.

  15. nidzovski (@nidzovski) said on 22nd January 2013, 15:04

    Bernie Ecclestone needs “ revitalizing”! As he is to old and greedy!

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