New South Wales Premier Mike Baird will bid to snatch Australia’s round of the Formula 1 World Driver’s Championship from Melbourne, if the Coalition is returned at this month’s state election.
The bid proposal would see the race taking in the best of Sydney’s picturesque harbour in a ‘Monaco-style’ event, encompassing The Rocks and perhaps even the Harbour Bridge.
Mr Baird’s bid team will include Destination NSW Chairman John Hartigan and Rod McGeoch, who led Sydney's successful 2000 Olympics bid.
Mr McGeoch told Sydney’s Radio 2UE that the logistics involved would make it “a huge event”, but an F1 race would continue the Coalition state government’s 2011 election promise to dramatically increase tourist numbers for NSW.
Speaking about potential benefits from an F1 race, McGeoch referenced the Vivid festival in Sydney, saying the 18-day event adds “30,000 extra (accommodation) nights” for the city, while an F1 GP could add 12,000 ‘nights’ for NSW businesses in less than a week.
Announcing the bid, Mr Baird told assembled media the new event team would give the bid “a real crack”.
“We’ve got the best people bringing the best events to grow our economy the strongest, and that’s exactly what the people of NSW would want to see,” Mr Baird said.
“I notice Melbourne are starting to say that they’re suddenly interested in the Formula 1 Grand Prix. We’ve heard for a long time that they’re not and a bit of competition comes along - I hope they welcome competition, because they’re not only going to see it in relation to this event, they’re going to see it across everything.”
“We make no apologies for doing what is right for NSW, and that is attracting great events [and] growing the economy.”
Beyond 2020, Victoria has an option to extend the contract for a further five years, meaning NSW may have to wait until 2025 at the earliest - and that’s assuming a bid was successful, or that Victoria is not offered a further extension beyond 2025.
This coming weekend's F1 grand prix in Melbourne will be the championship's 20th appearance in the city, after former Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett poached the event from South Australia.
Australian Grand Prix Corporation Chairman Ron Walker has weighed in on the issue, telling the ABC that the NSW Premier has been “ill-advised”.
Perhaps spurred on by potential competition north of the border, Mr Walker said Victoria’s government may take up its five-year option “some time in the next few months”.
This would ensure any other Australian bidder is locked out until 2025, unless the F1 hierarchy takes the unusual - but not unheard-of - step of granting a country the honour of hosting two Grands Prix.
Countries such as Germany and Spain have hosted more than one F1 GP in years gone by, with the second race usually tagged the “European Grand Prix”.
TMR’s F1 scribe, Peter Anderson, told ABC Radio today that contesting an F1 race in Sydney would be difficult.
"This is an extremely difficult way to run a Formula 1 race for a city that is already fairly broken when it comes to our roads," Mr Anderson said.
"You've got to start preparing the track for three months beforehand and it's not the work of an afternoon with a couple of blokes in a ute."
Despite his reservations, Mr Walker conceded that an F1 race around Sydney Harbour would be “a sensation”.
The 2015 Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix event is currently underway, with the race set to be run this weekend.