Grand Australian Grand Prix on foot after driver complaints

The Australian Grand Prix could be another F1 season opener, a huge boost for home driver Daniel Ricciardo. (Photo credit should read Chris Putnam/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

The Australian Grand Prix could retakes its place as the Formula 1 season opener officials are hoping for as early as 2024.

More than 415,000 fans crowded into Albert Park for the Return of F1 to Australia last weekendafter two years of canceled races due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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With Australia’s place on an ever-expanding F1 calendar slightly challenged thanks to previous cancellations, the triumphant return to Albert Park has instead fueled talk of it returning to the long-cherished season-opening spot.

Bahrain hosted the first race of the season after the second phase of pre-season testing was conducted at the Middle East circuit. However, Australian Grand Prix Corporation boss Andrew Westacott has raised the prospect of Albert Park restarting the 2024 F1 season.

Something F1 drivers had complained ahead of the race that a mid-season standalone race in Australia was a logistical nightmare for teams, involving long journeys and limited downtime between rounds despite a two-week break before and after the Australian GP.

Mercedes driver George Russell was among those who raised concerns but backed a season-opener return for Australia.

If Westacott, who earlier in the week urged drivers to “howl at the calendar,” prevails, Russell’s wish could be granted.

Australia’s status as a season opener depended largely on “planning,” Westacott said Herald Sun.

“There is also Ramadan to consider,” Westacott said, noting that the Islamic calendar and the different periods of Ramadan are also a factor.

Speaking to Reuters about the Grand Prix weekend, Westacott reiterated his preference for Australia to take an early spot on the F1 calendar.

“We proved we can be successful both in the season opener and after a couple of races,” said Westacott.

“The time for Formula 1 in Australia is early in the season.

“The drivers have to stop whining about some things.”

F1 drivers raise travel concerns amid grueling schedule

Ferrari’s Perez, Russell and Carlos Sainz all raised concerns about the Australian GP’s future placement on the F1 calendar.

Russell said he’s always enjoyed Albert Park as a season opener, adding that going forward it makes sense to make it a back-to-back weekend with another race in Asia or the Middle East.

Russell said that in his current format, it’s just “too difficult” for teams to play at the highest level with travel loads as they have been.

“I think Melbourne here as a season opener was really cool because everyone got here early and there was a lot of excitement and anticipation,” said Russell.

“But I think having Melbourne between races, especially as a lone fighter, is too difficult for the teams and everyone.

“People came out on Saturdays and Sundays to get used to the conditions and the time zone change and it’s just too much.”

Mercedes F1 driver George Russell has raised the possibility of Australia returning to its place as the season-opening grand prix. (Photo by Paul Cross ATPImages/Getty Images)

Perez said it made sense for the season opener to remain in Bahrain but echoed Russell’s call for the Australian GP to be placed somewhere more logistically sensible on the calendar.

“As the season gets longer and longer, we need to find a better balance,” he said.

“It’s working well at the moment because we’re doing the winter tests in Bahrain, it makes sense to stay there.

“But it has to be really direct with one of those races because coming to Australia for just one race is pretty painful for everyone.

“We all want to come here but there are ways we can improve and to be fair, F1 Australia has not been on the calendar for the last (two) years.

“I’m sure they’ll be able to watch it in the future.”

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