MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australian Grand Prix boss Andrew Westacott has dismissed a report the Formula One race could end up in Sydney, saying Melbourne wants to keep it after its contract expires in 2025.
Australian broadcaster Seven Network said the New South Wales state government was having “high level talks” about a possible bid to snatch the race from Melbourne, without naming sources.
Organisers were forced to cancel the 2020 and 2021 races in Melbourne due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Westacott said the report was a surprise to him but organisers would fight to keep the race in Australia’s second largest city.
“It’s a highly sought-after event, but the Australian Grand Prix is not going anywhere as far as I’m concerned,” he told Australian broadcaster Nine Network on Friday.
“We’ve got a strong relationship with Formula One, it’s been built up over a quarter of a century of trust.”
The race was run in Adelaide from 1985-1995 before the Victoria state government did a deal with F1’s former commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone to bring it to Melbourne.
“We’re here until 2025, but we can never be complacent, we should never take our eye off the ball, as Adelaide showed in the 1990s,” added Westacott.
“We want to keep the event here beyond 2025.”
Melbourne, which exited a near-three month lockdown on Friday, is scheduled to host the race in April, 2022.
Australia’s immigration minister said this week foreign athletes not fully vaccinated for COVID-19 would be denied visas to enter the country, raising the prospect of high-profile withdrawals from the Australian Open tennis and other sports events.
Westacott said it was unlikely to be problematic for the Grand Prix.
“I’m confident F1 has a model that is based on a 100% vaccination target. At the moment I think it’s about 98% across the travelling contingent because they’ve actually seen that it’s a sound strategy for their own business continuity,” he added.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)