Australian GP guaranteed as F1 season opener until 2020

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The Australian Grand Prix will retain its slot as the first race of the Formula 1 season until 2020 under the terms of its recent contract extension, it has been confirmed.

Melbourne’s Albert Park has hosted the race since 1996, enjoying opening round status for all but two years, and will host the first race of the 2015 season on March 15.

In 2006 and 2010, the Bahrain Grand Prix was the first race of the year, and was thought to be in the running to take over the position from the Australian Grand Prix given that its timings are more suited to European and American audiences.

However, speaking to Fairfax Media, Australian Grand Prix Corporation CEO Andrew Westacott confirmed that the race is guaranteed to be the season-opener until 2020 thanks to the contract extension that was signed last year.

“We have clauses in there about the first race of the season,” Westacott said. “The requirement that it be the first race is maintained. It works beautifully for Melbourne and Victoria that it’s at the start of the season, and that’s not going to change.”

In order to alleviate the timezone problems posed by the race, it had been suggested that the Australian Grand Prix could become a night race, following in the footsteps of the Singapore, Abu Dhabi and Bahrain Grands Prix.

However, Westacott confirmed that this will not be the case, with a clause in the contract stating that it must remain a daytime event.

“The contract stipulates in various legal words about Melbourne being the first race and it being a day race,” he explained. “It’s also in the agreement that there’s no artificial light, so it’s not going to go to a night race.”