The confusion surrounding the last-minute cancellation of the Australian Grand Prix was due to a complicated combination of factors, says Australian Grand Prix Corporation chief Andrew Westacott.
The cancellation, which was only made official after fans had already made their way to Albert Park to attend Friday’s free practices, was met with widespread criticism from all sides, but Westacott maintains that circumstances made a straightforward resolution impossible.
“The timing was probably the perfect storm, but it was anything but perfect for all of the teams, our sponsors and the fans that were outside the gate when lots of decisions were being made.” he explained on the Below the Bonnet podcast.
“We had to take input from the chief health officer, who is part of the Victorian government under the Department of Health and Human Services. That particular individual feeds up into a cohort of chief health officers around the country.
“The FIA is involved. The teams are involved. Formula 1 is involved. The Victorian government is involved and then there’s timezones that aren’t necessarily conducive to making decisions when we had the event going on the Thursday, but things changed overnight.
“That’s why there was, sadly, some frustration from the fans at the gate.”
Expanding further, Westcott explained that the AGPC was considering whether they could run the event without Formula 1, given there were a number of support series who were ready to participate.
“There were a number of different scenarios. There are considerations of whether you go ahead without Formula 1, or whether you ultimately take all the inputs. And we, at the end of the day, took all the inputs.”
“But all of these things had been compressed within an hour or three and unfortunately you’ve got to decide a complete outcome before telling people.
“We had to advise the right things to people at the right time. That’s the way it panned out.”
Making matters more complicated was that the AGPC had to liaise with F1’s decision-makers before making an official cancellation, with not all of them easily reachable.
“We certainly knew that there were the views of the teams [by Friday morning], but those are things that need to be ratified and finalised via discussions with the FIA and Jean Todt and Formula 1 and Chase Carey,” he said.
“And one of the things was Chase Carey was on plane from Vietnam at the particular time this was all happening.”
Nevertheless, Westacott reiterated that he was sorry for what had transpired.
“The thing I was upset for was the fans, the race participants, and the staff and suppliers. They all wanted to open up the house and show it to the world, and then had it ripped out from underneath them.
“The toll on this is not only event time, but there’s lots and lots of suppliers that will do it tough because of the events industry in Victoria and nationally that’s been decimated.”