FEBRUARY 11, 2008
A slight change of timing
The Australian Grand Prix has traditionally started at two o'clock in the afternoon but with Melbourne being 10 hours ahead of London this means that the TV coverage of the event begins at a less than agreeable 0400 in Britain and a slightly less painful 0500 in Europe. Mindful that the Formula One group is keen to maximise the number of TV viewers so as to push up viewing figures (and thus rights fees) the Australians have now decided to push back the start of the event to 3.30pm, which will mean a rather more civilised start time of 05.30 in Britain and 06.30 in Europe. This means that there will be many more fans around the world willing to crawl from their beds to watch the action. The move is in response to Formula One's demands that the race prepare for a night race in the years ahead. This is going to be very hard to achieve in Melbourne for a number of different reasons, not least that the area to the west of Albert Park is largely residential and any night racing is likely to stir up trouble with the almost moribund Save Albert Park organisation. Far more serious, however, is the cost of lighting the park which is estimated to be in the region of $53m, with a recurring cost of something like $5m a year after that. Given that the race has been making substantial losses in recent years, largely due to the fact that the Formula One company is pushing up the fee payments by 10% each year, these numbers would make the race virtually impossible from a financial point of view. The Victorian state government is already grumbling about the costs of the race and there is no sign that the federal government is going to help, despite the fact that the event brings in millions each year for the Australian economy.
The plan at the moment is to see how things go with the first night race in Singapore to see whether the event draws in big crowds at night or whether the investment made there in lighting has been wasted.
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