FORMULA One cars could one day fly across Sydney Harbour Bridge if a bold, $180 million vote-winning bid to steal the Australian Grand Prix from Melbourne ever gains traction.
New South Wales Premier Mike Baird is expected to propose a Sydney Grand Prix in a bid to woo voters, including sounding out plans for an audacious layout that includes crossing the city’s famous bridge.
With a New South Wales state election scheduled for 28 March, the NSW premier is expected to announce the bid if he is re-elected later this month. If successful, it would secure the event for the harbour city for at least three years.
The layout would be a street circuit, potentially using the Harbour Bridge, Cahill Expressway and surrounds, with the government closing the CBD for the event. Australia’s Mark Webber drove his Williams FW27 F1 car over the bridge in 2007 as a publicity stunt for the Australian Grand Prix, in support of the Melbourne event – not as a precursor to a bid for the event to change locations.
Despite the proposal, Victorian Premier Denis Napthine announced late last year that Melbourne had secured the Grand Prix until 2020. This is despite ongoing opposition to the use of the Albert Park venue, as well as the increasing costs of hosting the event.
The ABC reported that the event cost taxpayers $55.97 million in 2014, with Victorian Major Events Minister Louise Asher saying the event still brought “significant economic and tourism benefits” to Melbourne.
The timing of the announcement is fortuitous for Baird, as the chair of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, Ron Walker, will retire after this weekend’s race with a successor yet to be named.
It also follows proposals by London Mayor, Boris Johnson, to host a Grand Prix using London’s iconic skyline, including around Westminster and Big Ben, with public support from current world champion and Brit, Lewis Hamilton.
Australia has been in the enviable position of hosting a Formula One Grand Prix every year since 1985, when the event was held in Adelaide. The Melbourne Grand Prix has been held since 1996, when Albert Park became the venue, and was also where the first Australian Grand Prix was held in 1953.