A permanent date swap between Australia’s Formula 1 and MotoGP races is on the table for 2022 and beyond.
The two events, both run by the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, traditionally sit at opposite ends of their respective schedules, with Albert Park opening the F1 season in March and Phillip Island hosting MotoGP in October.
However ongoing travel restrictions due to the pandemic have forced the postponement of this year’s F1 race, which is now scheduled to take place on 21 November, four weeks after the MotoGP race.
According to AGPC boss Andrew Westacott, this has opened the door for a major re-think in terms of timing for both events.
He says there are now four options when it comes to scheduling for 2022 and beyond, one of which is effectively a straight swap between the F1 and MotoGP events.
That would maintain the distance between the two, important for both event management and ticket sales, and address the regular calls from riders to shift Phillip Island to an autumn date in search of better weather.
“I can’t emphasise highly enough that there is nothing definitive about the calendars in 2022,” Westacott told Autosport.
“We always enjoy the opening race position with Formula 1. It suits us and it’s a major pillar of Melbourne’s major events calendar.
“What I’ve also said is that a change of the nature we have now, with a November [Formula 1] event, gives us the opportunity to look at four very distinct scenarios.
“One is that both events are in an early season slot, February or March. Another is both races being in a late season slot, October or November. The traditional F1 at the start and MotoGP at the end. Or, the flip – MotoGP at the start and F1 at the end.
“I’ve got a very open mind about all of those four scenarios, and the pros and cons and opportunities they present to the sport. And the value those events deliver for Melbourne.
“All of them are on the table and a combination will be decided on when the calendars are finalised during the middle of this year.
“Taking into account tradition and new opportunities, I’m open-minded. There is categorically not one decision that has been made on it just yet.”
There are still no guarantees either of the events will go ahead this year, with Australia’s borders shut to the rest of the world.
Anybody entering the country is still subject to 14 days of hotel quarantine, a practice that is unlikely to be dropped until vaccines are at a significant level of worldwide circulation.
Australia’s own vaccine programme started today (Monday) and is expected to be completed by October.
Melbourne did manage to host its first international event since the pandemic started, the Australian Open tennis tournament, this month, but competitors first had to undergo the full two-week quarantine.
Westacott says learnings from the tennis, as well as progress on the vaccine front, has left him confident the Formula 1 paddock will make it to Melbourne in November.
“It’s always complex, you only have to look at the tennis and how they’ve approached it,” he added.
“But my view, and the view of the government, is that we have the opportunity to continually develop and continuously improve the approach to staging events.
“We’ve got time now to do that, based on learnings from the tennis, from vaccine rollouts, from hotel quarantine, from all sorts of other health-related approaches. It’s going to stand us in better stead to stage the event in November.”