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Australian GP boss dubious of 'double-header'

NEWS STORY
28/04/2021

Andrew Westacott, CEO of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, appears to pour cold water on Daniel Ricciardo's suggestion that Melbourne host a double-header this year.

Surely only a true sceptic would suggest that the recently announced race in Miami and the extension of Suzuka's contract is a mere ploy to keep F1's investors happy ahead of next week's report on the opening quarter's earnings. Or that the announcements precede a slew of race cancellations as uncertainty over the pandemic continues.

Indeed, as we await confirmation of whether the Canadian Grand Prix will go ahead, Turkey, where the Istanbul Park was being suggested as a replacement for the Montreal event, has gone into full lockdown.

With an eye of the cancellations that are sure to happen, thereby throwing the sport's much heralded 23-race schedule up in the air, Daniel Ricciardo suggested that Melbourne could host a double-header.

Other than being popular with fans and drivers alike, the Melbourne track is undergoing a number of significant changes (pictured) that it will make it faster and offer more opportunity for overtaking.

Furthermore, with Brazil one of the events almost certain to be cancelled, Ricciardo suggested this would present the perfect opportunity to hold two races 'down under'.

Unfortunately, as Andrew Westacott, CEO of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, makes clear, it isn't that easy.

"The scheduling of an F1 season is a complex topic in the best of times," he tells Speedcafe.com, "and it's even more complex in a COVID environment.

"The overall scheduling of 23 races is really best left to the experts at F1," he adds. "They know the contractual requirements, they know the conditions, they're in dialogue with every one of the promoters, and so the scheduling around when countries are in and out is very much left to the experts in F1."

With an eye on suggestions at the time that one of the two events run at Silverstone last year could be run in reverse, Ricciardo had jokingly said that perhaps Melbourne should consider the idea.

"We did look at it only from the perspective of my inquiring engineering mind," admits Westacott. "I think I spent about four nanoseconds before realising that that is not a possibility.

"The design of a circuit is always done with safety as the first and paramount consideration, and then obviously competitiveness of racing and, viewing and vantage points and physical restrictions.

"It is just not physically possible to safely configure the current circuit unless you obliterated many, many ovals or natural features," he admits. "And that's not just a practical scenario, and not a necessary scenario, so we can't race the opposite direction."

Fact is, unless there is a major turnaround - if you'll forgive the pun - the Melbourne event itself is looking doubtful.

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