Saudi Arabia to Open 2024 F1 Season as Australian Grand Prix Extends Contract

The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix will open the 2024 Formula 1 season, while the Australian Grand Prix extends its contract for a further two years to 2037.

A press release from the Premier of Victoria has revealed that Albert Park has signed a further two-year contract extension to host the Australian Grand Prix until 2037. The news comes just six months after the event signed a long-term 10-year contract to remain on the Formula 1 calendar until 2035.

The latest deal means that Albert Park now has the longest contract of any circuit on the current calendar. Bahrain International Circuit previously held the longest contract, having signed up to host the Bahrain Grand Prix until 2036.

This year, the Australian Grand Prix enjoyed its largest weekend crowd since 1995. Almost 420,000 attendees passed through the circuit gates across the four days of the race weekend. Event organisers are expecting another strong attendance figure in 2023, with tickets already on sale for next year’s Albert Park race. Race day tickets officially sold out in just three and a half hours.

Saudi Arabia to host first race of 2024 F1 season

According to the press release, Saudi Arabia is in line to host the first race of the 2024 Formula 1 season. It was previously expected that Australia would host the season-opener in 2024. The fact that race promoters have agreed to delay the event’s return to the season opening slot is believed to be the reason why a new contract extension has been announced.

As part of the previous contract signed in June, the Australian Grand Prix was supposed to hold the season-opening event at least five times between 2023 and 2035. Under the new contract, the wording has changed and Australia will be the season-opener “for at least four years between 2023 and 2037”.

The press release names the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as the season-opening destination for 2024. Australia was expected to host the first race of the 2024 season due to Ramadan – the religious festival which will coincide with the start of the Formula 1 season for the next few years. Out of respect for the observance of the religious month, Formula 1 will not race in the Middle East during the Ramadan period.

In 2023, Ramadan begins on March 22. The start of the Formula 1 season begins earlier for this reason – fitting the Bahrain Grand Prix in on March 5 and the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix following two weeks later on March 19.

In 2024, however, Ramadan begins on Sunday March 10. That means that the start of the 2024 season – in Saudi Arabia – will take place even earlier, likely on March 3. With the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix all but confirmed to host the season-opening event in 2024, the Bahrain Grand Prix will move to a later slot in the 2024 calendar, after Ramadan ends on April 9 – perhaps following on from the Australian Grand Prix in April, or back-to-back with another Middle Eastern race (Qatar or Abu Dhabi) later in the season.

It’s likely that the following three seasons – 2025, 2026 and 2027 – will all see Albert Park return to its original position as the first race of the year.

Westacott to leave Australian Grand Prix role

There’ll be a change at the top of Australian Grand Prix hierarchy in 2023 as Andrew Westacott has announced his intention to leave his role as Australian Grand Prix Corporation CEO. Westacott has been in the role since 2011.

Westacott has overseen 30 Formula 1 and MotoGP races during his time in charge at the Australian Grand Prix Corporation. In a statement, he ranked motorsport’s return to Melbourne in 2022 among his highlights during his tenure as CEO:

It’s been a source of immense pride to be able to work for the Australian Grand Prix Corporation for so many years and to work so closely with the wonderful AGPC team and all those involved in our major events industry, including those at Formula 1 and MotoGP.

Thirty events, a few cancellations along the way and record-breaking crowds in 2022 have all provided special moments. The contrasting years between the start of COVID in 2020 and the way in which we opened Melbourne to the sporting world in 2022 both produced massive memories that I’ll remember forever.”

Westacott’s successor has not yet been announced.

Do you think Jeddah Corniche Circuit will make for an exciting opening round to the 2024 Formula 1 season? Leave a comment below!

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