Formula 1

Why should Sydney host the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix and what could it look like?

While certainly spectacular it is hardly practical for an F1 race to be run on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. However, if it was to be held, where could it go?

With the date for renewal of the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix contract fast approaching (the current contract expires after 2015), Australian media attention has been known to shift away from the on-track action in Melbourne, speculating instead on what track the action will take place on in the future. Either for want of political attention, or out of genuine interest, focus for the hosting of the grand prix (held every year in Australia since 1985), has emerged from the posturing of the NSW Government. In recent years, this posturing has taken the form of proposals to host the race around the Olympic Park precinct in Homebush, or at a re-developed Eastern Creek, locations that could be updated to accommodate the ever-growing demand by Bernie Ecclestone for the race to be held at night. “If Sydney had the event Jack, where do you think the race should be?”, is a question I am frequently asked by friends. Before I propose where the Grand Prix should be run were it to be held in Sydney, I should provide justification for it’s layout as while it is ambitious, there is every reason for the NSW government to go to great lengths in securing the rights to the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix from 2016 onwards.

What Sporting Events are Open for Sydney to Host?

There are few sporting events in the world that can profess to be the most watched in the world. Of these sports, fewer still are held every year, at different venues, while still retaining their appeal. If you were to mention the biggest sporting competitions in the world, attention would shift to the Summer Olympic Games, the Winter Olympics, The Football World Cup, The Rugby World Cup and The Cricket World Cup. While there may well be other competitions that fit into this category, I am not aware of other competitions of this size that Australia actively competes in and, as such, would be suitable for Sydney to host. When considering the hosting of these events, the options for Sydney diminish quickly. Firstly the Summer Olympics was achieved in 2000 with supreme success. Climactic conditions mean that the Winter Olympics is impossible to host. Australia made the mistake of bidding rather than buying the hosting rights to the Football World Cup in 2022. Sydney hosted the final of the 2003 Rugby World Cup and will host a semi-final for the 2015 Cricket World Cup. The events mentioned above, while certainly bringing the world’s attention to a city, have many limiting factors. Firstly, different countries host these events on each occasion they are staged. Secondly, they only occur every four years. Thirdly, with the exception of the Summer and Winter Olympics, the events are hosted by a nation and not a city. While these events may at present be out of reach of Sydney, these are not the only sporting events that would be considered by any international city.

The next category of events to be considered don’t make the first list because they are sports that participate in the Olympics, which attains a level of prestige, over and above there own competitions. These events are the relevant world championships in athletics, cycling, aquatics and gymnastics, which usually occur on an annual or bi-annual occasion. These events are good for a city in that they are usually undertaken over the course of a week, have strong international support, and are hosted solely by a city rather than a country. However, as with the events above, some do not occur every year and when they do, are hosted in different cities around the world. Of these events it is Melbourne, despite not having the benefit of modern facilities built specifically for the Olympic Games, that have time and again beaten Sydney to the hosting rights. These events include the 2007 FINA World Aquatics Championships, the 2010 UCI Road World Championships and the 2004 and 2012 UCI Track Cycling World Championships. Yes, Melbourne have hosted an international cycling event twice in eight years!!

The next category of events are arguably some of the largest in the world however, their obvious disadvantage is that while they are hosted by a city, occur every year, and attract an enormous global attention, the strength of their appeal is surrounded in their presence in the same country or city every year. Events like the Tour de France, Wimbledon, the Masters, the Superbowl (United States of America), the Monaco Grand Prix, the Indianapolis 500, the Isle of Man TT, the Champions League Final (Europe), The Kentucky Derby and The FA Cup to name a few. The simple reason for this is that the success of these events depends largely upon the venue in which they are held. What can be taken from these events is the immense value that can be attained by a city hosting a sporting event and what qualities are needed to create such an event.

What Makes a Sporting Event Prestigious?

I have been very fortunate to have witnessed some of the events above first-hand and almost every year I make a concerted effort to watch all of the events mentioned above on television. One argument against the suggestion that a Formula 1 race in Sydney could attain the status as one of the greatest annual sporting events in the world is that, with the exception of the Superbowl, they posses an extensive history built up over a great deal of time. While history is important, the ability for these events to create this history is largely because the events share at least two qualities; they provide unique challenges within their sport, and they are aesthetically beautiful. Further I would suggest that Formula 1, unlike other sports, take a lot less time to develop a rich history and prestige among the sporting landscape.

Firstly, it is not hard to point out the unique challenges posed by some of the greatest sporting events. Wimbledon provides the challenge of grass court tennis, the Tour De France provides riders with the immense challenges of the Pyrenees and the Alps, the Monaco Grand Prix places the worlds most advanced racing cars in the confines of the narrown streets of Monte Carlo for almost two hours straight, the Isle of Man TT is arguably the most dangerous sporting event in the world with 1000cc motorcycles reaching speeds of 300km/h on closed public roads, the Masters presents competitors with the challenging Augusta National Golf Course and The FA Cup provides an annual knockout competition that pits all FA registered football teams in England against each other.

From a spectacle point of view it is hard to argue with these events. Be it the glamour and beauty of the French Riviera backdrop that only the principality of Monaco can provide, the immaculate beauty of the Augusta National golf course and Wimbledon tennis facilities, the sheer scale of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway or the sheer beauty of France itself, these events entice the audience to not only watch the event on television but to experience it first hand.

Using the examples of some of the biggest annual sporting events in the world, it is apparent that were Sydney to choose Homebush or Eastern Creek as the venue to stage the Australian Grand Prix it would immediately fail to provide either a unique challenge to the drivers or a unique spectacle to television audiences. In fact Formula 1 has shown on numerous occasions that any event lacking character or appeal will quickly find itself struggling for renewal on the Grand Prix circus. Korea looks set to join Istanbul on this list, why Hungary didn’t join it years ago is a mystery to most Formula 1 fans. The right to host a Formula 1 race is not cheap, some say in the region of $50 million dollars a year, so it’s the old saying that you have to spend money to make money that is never more appropriate in this situation. But how does an event like Formula 1 justify such expense in comparison with other sports?

Why Formula 1?

Because the contract to host the Australian Grand Prix is up for renewal and there is increasing angst within the ranks of the current hosts to continue is not a good enough reason for Sydney to take the reigns of what is a very costly event. Formula 1 does provide the host city with some very appealing aspects. The primary advantage is that the playing field can be the city that you are promoting. Unlike most sports where the event is confined to an arena, a street race provides the coverage of a race to be part sport, part comercial to the features of the host city. However, the only way this can be taken full advantage of is by hosting the event in and around the greatest qualities of the host city, and while there is certainly nothing offensive about the Homebush Olympic precinct, it simply doesn’t compare to what is arguably the most picturesque city in the world.

As the locality of the race will reveal, the event would serve to highlight the ongoing re-development of the enormous Barangaroo precinct which would be under constant transformation throughout the hosting of the race.

A constant threat to the host of any event of this kind is the damage that Formula 1 has on the environment. However, by 2016 the sports ambition to have the main source of the cars power derived from renewable forms of energy will have come into full effect, making an event through the streets of Sydney, highly desirable to the image of Formula 1. In recent years Bernie Ecclestone has not concealed his preference to have Formula 1 events in close proximity to large population bases. When asked about the French Grand Prix being held near Paris, Ecclestone stated that he would sign an agreement today if he could arrange such a venue. Recent years have shown an increasing preference to daring street-track venues with Singapore debuting in 2008, a New Jersey street circuit to debut in 2013 and a further street track in Argentina has also been proposed.

One thing should be made clear however, the image of Sydney as a harbour city with beautiful weather, lends itself to the race only being held in the city provided their is a guarantee that it be held in the afternoon and not at night as requested by Bernie Ecclestone.

The Track Layout

Starting on Hickson Road alongside the current Barangaroo construction site, the cars would head north heading towards turn 1 and the flying right hand kink before the finger wharfs at Millers Point. The cars would go under the dual bridges, keeping to the inside to ensure the optimal entrance into the first breaking point on the circuit. The enclosed nature of the opening turn would enhance the sound of the cars as the approach turn 2.

The view back down the front straight on Hickson Road with the Barangaroo construction site to the right. view looking back through turn 1. The bridge in the forefront is turn 4 on to Windmill Street.

Turn 2 sees the cars turn left onto Towns Place and commence the climb up alongside the harbour front. The turn is wide and newly laid with adequate run-off to be accommodated for down Hickson Road. The newly constructed apartments and public sculpture together with the close proximity of the theatre district would make this a very lively area during the day and night of the race weekend.

The first breaking zone at turn 2.

Turn 3 sees the cars continue up the hill, taking the tight left hander onto Dalgety Road. As the photo below shows, this beautiful turn provides the spectator with the first opportunity to see the close proximity of the harbour. Again, the road is very wide and it’s gradient would pose no difficulty to a modern Formula 1 car.

A view from the apartments overlooking Towns PlaceThe view looking down Towns Place to turn 2

Winding up Dalgety Road, the cars would approach turn 4, being the double apex left-hander onto Windmill Street. The road provides the first of a unique two cross-over layout, with the opening turn 1 below. Windmill is a narrower road but would still be in excess of three cars wide. Some work would be needed to reduce the undulation of the road but this would only bring a benefit to the businesses located on the road.

Heritage listed warehouse on the outside of turn 4 on to Windmill Street.

The view looking down Windmill Street

Turn 5 sees the cars turn left onto Lower Fort Street and commence the descent into the Rocks area of the circuit. The corner is quite complex with the entry being uphill and the exit being downhill. From an aesthetic perspective, the presence of the Hero of Waterloo hotel on the outside of the turn is distinctive of the area of Sydney and is the first of a number of heritage-listed sandstone hotels/pubs that overlook the circuit. It would be essential that these establishments be able to operate during the course of the race weekend and for the owners to be able to profit by having the ability to sell exclusive ticketing opportunities to maximum amount of patrons, thus ensuring the control of spectators and safety around the venue. Lower Fort Street is wide enough but would need to be resurfaced, hopefully while still maintaining the character of the road, distinguished by the lines of sandstone on either side of the road.

Looking back down Windmill Street with the Hero of Waterloo Hotel on the left

The view down Lower Fort Street to the Harbour View Hotel turn.

The view down Lower Fort Street brings the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge into view on the circuit for the first time. The cars then take the tight right hand turn at turn 6 with the Harbour View Hotel located on the inside and proceed to go under the Harbour Bridge itself. The cars then turn right again at turn 7 to progress along Cumberland Street. The braking area at turn 6 has room for adequate run off area proceeding down Lower Fort Street. It is important to note that for such a large lay out, Lower Fort Street is one of only a few parts of the circuit that travels past residential properties and it is these home owners that would need to be catered for.

The view looking back down Lower Fort Street with the entry into turn 6 on the left of picture

The exit from turn 6 with the Harbour View Hotel on the inside

The blast up and along Cumberland St takes the drivers past some more iconic establishments including the Glenmore Hotel, The Australian Hotel, the Shangri-Lah Hotel and the newly built Sydney Harbour YHA. It also provides for the second cross-over on the circuit as the cars go over Argyle Street. The breaking point at turn 8 poses the greatest difficulty in terms of run-off as there is a newly constructed park area in front of the Stamford apartments however with the removal of light poles this could be made safe.

The iconic Glenmore Hotel

The iconic Australian Hotel

The view looking back down the circuit along Cumberland Street

Turn 8 is a tight downhill left hand corner into Essex Street and it is here where the most road work would have to be done. As the photo below shows, there is a great deal of room to take away the railing and footpath on the left, move the road further to the left and reinstall the railing closer to the building. This would not be unwelcome as it would greater improve the access to the Shangri-La Hotel and the road surface itself is due for repair anyway.The road runs past Hart’s pub, shown on the right of the photo below.

From this photo you can see that while tight and a little steep, there is considerable room for the necessary alterations to widen the circuit.

Harts Pub on the outside of turn 9

Turn 9 is the immediate right into Gloucester Street and one of the prettiest sections of the track. The quick downhill change of direction at turns 8 and 9 following the Cumberland Street Straight would be very impressive. Down Gloucester street and through the trees with the sandstone Lawson-Menzies building to one side and Lang Park directly ahead, the track emerges into the city section.

St Patrick’s Church on the corner of Gloucester and Grosvenor Streets.

Turn 10 is the left hand bend onto Grosvenor Street which leads down to the intersection with George Street and turns 11 and 12. Utilising the extensive width of the roads, the circuit could be shaped to ensure that turn 11 onto George and then turn 12 onto Bridge Street is not taken as a flat out chicane. This is the furthest part of George Street, away from the harbour, that would be affected by the race track.

The view of turn 11 looking back as the cars come down Grosvernor Street.

The view across turn 11 towards the left hander into Bridge street at turn 12

Heading down Bridge Street, the cars would approach turn 13 onto Gresham Street, with the heritage-listed land departments building on the outside of the turn.

The heritage-listed lands department building on the outside of turn 13

Next is the Left hand turn 14 onto Bent Street which leads the cars uphill and through the right hand sweep past the some of the newly built buildings in the city including the carbon neutral 1 Bligh Street building, the Governor Phillip and Macquarie Tower, Chifley Tower, and the Renzo Piano designed RBS Building and residential apartments, before arriving at the top of Bent Street at the intersection with Macquarie Street.

The left hand turn onto Bent Street

The view up Bent Street towards Maquarie Street

Turn 15 is the very wide left hand turn into Macquarie Street. The corner is the furthest point up Macquarie Street that the track occupies and provides the Eastern boundary of the circuit. The corner is notable for the backdrop of the Mitchell Library and the proximity of the Royal Botanic Gardens.

The Renzo Piano designed apartment buildings overlooking the left hand turn on to Maquarie Street

Turn 16 is the left hand bend onto Bridge Street. The corner takes into view the Conservatorium of Music, the Inter-Continental Hotel, and the Industrial Relations Commission Building. Again the road is very wide.

Maquarie Street with the Royal Botanic Gardens on the left.

The left hand turn off Maquarie Street and on to Bridge Street

Turn 17 is the right hand turn onto Loftus Street which leads the cars down towards Circular Quay. It is at this point that a connecting road could be accommodated to allow for track officials to short-cut the circuit, much in the same way as is done in Singapore.

Turn 17 from Bridge on to Loftus and down towards Circular Quay

Turn 18 is the left hand bend onto Alfred Street. It is this point of the track which is closest to the Opera House precinct and could be incorporated into any wide angle shot. It is also the closest that the track gets to Sydney Harbour.

The heritae-listed Customs House building located on the outside of turn 18 at Alfred Street.

Inside of turn 18

Turn 19 is the left hand bend back on to George Street at the foyer of the Four Seasons Hotel. The cars intentionally do not go right into The Rocks area as this will serve to provide a social precinct at night and during the day, straddling the track at turns 6, 19 and 22. This will ensure all businesses in the entertainment precinct of the Rocks are able to fully benefit from the Grand Prix by being close to the circuit and benefiting from the creation of the Rocks and Circular Quay areas into pedestrian precincts.

Children's Fountain Herald Square Alfred Street Sydney

Public sculpture at Herald Square with the proposed turn 19 in the background as it leads the cars back on to George Street

Turn 20 and 21 are the uphill right hand turn at Essex Street and the right hand turn onto Harrington Street. While steep, the gradient of the turn would need to be addressed. However, the street is wide enough to accommodate Formula 1 cars.

The view from the inside of the right turn from Essex on to Harrington Street.

Harrington straight is perhaps the most narrow of the roads used on the circuit layout but by no means any narrower than streets used in Monaco and Singapore. The straight leads to the left hand turn 22 at Argyle Street which leads through the tunnel back underneath Cumberland Street and back into Millers Point and down to turn 23.


The view down Harrington Street


The left hand turn from Harrington Street on to Argyle Street.

The Argyle street tunnel which brings the track under Cumberland Street between the Glenmore and The Australian Hotels’

Turn 23 is a beautiful left hand turn onto Kent Street with Observatory Hill on the inside and with the heritage-listed Lord Nelson Hotel overlooking the track on the outside.

The inside of turn 23 and the iconic Lord Nelson Hotel in the background is one of the tracks many visual highlights.

Down Kent Street Straight and the blast all the way down to the right hand turn 24 at Napoleon Street which is a beautifully wide and flowing corner which leads downhill onto Hickson Road, but not before there is a little tricky left right flick onto the start/finish straight to start a new lap. Kent street poses some difficulties including the removal of some pedestrian islands where the Harbour Bridge turn off is but with some temporary fixtures installed it provides a very fast conclusion to the lap, with adequate run-off area and a good opportunity to overtake.

The Observatory Hotel half way along the drag down Kent Street.

The view back up Napolean Street showing the final chicane leading down on to Hickson Road

So that is one lap around the Sydney Formula 1 Grand Prix circuit. Hope you enjoyed the track guide and let’s hope that a multi-purpose facility can be constructed in Barrangaroo or that the building plans leave the possibility for Sydney to embrace this world-class event in a manner that portrays Sydney in the best possible light and the Grand Prix as a sporting fans must.



7 thoughts on “Why should Sydney host the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix and what could it look like?

  1. Where’s the video link?

    Posted by Lezza | June 7, 2012, 12:50 am
  2. I’d like to see the video link too please, but it doesn’t appear to be anywhere. Also, could you create draw the track onto a map of Sydney like from a Google Maps screenshot or something? I think its an awesome idea and hope someone in the government can read this!

    Posted by f1fan | June 28, 2012, 4:00 pm
  3. Hi, my name is Louie. I quite enjoyed reading this article. I’m actually working towards a proposal to the NSW government to host the F1 in Sydney. The most important aspect is where the track will be and your layout is very interesting. I especially like the Hickson Road stretch as I was thinking the same.

    Posted by Louie | January 29, 2013, 2:50 pm
    • Louie,
      Do you have an E-Mail address?

      Posted by Lezza | January 29, 2013, 3:13 pm
    • Great to hear from you Louie,

      Always nice to know there are other people passionate about getting the race to Sydney. It seems as though every year the story of the race in Melbourne revolves around the cost of hosting the event, a story that has been boring for many years and now only serves to damage the sports image. Not that Bernie ‘any publicity is good publicity’ Ecclestone would ever think that. The biggest issue that has really put this idea on hold is the Barangaroo development which will hopefully keep Hickson road wide enough to accomodate both a temporary pit facility and the race track itself however, you may have a different idea on this.

      I did make the suggestion, albeit not a proposal, to the then NSW Labor government a few years ago that they should acquire the rights to the Formula 1, to which the response I received stated that the government’s events policy was focusing on the V8 Supercars on the temporary street circuit at Homebush. I couldn’t resist informing them that this was a gross error, something they would now be certainly well aware of based on current reports of the event.

      Having said this, it is a new government and I strongly encourage anyone and everyone to make their thoughts and ideas heard on the issue. The best way to pitch it I think is that while the event will always make a direct loss, it is an event than can afford to because the exposure to the city of Sydney would be priceless.

      Good luck with the preparation of your proposal and I would be very interested to hear of any response you receive.

      All the very best


      Posted by arrow7f1 | January 29, 2013, 3:20 pm
      • HI Jack,

        I also saw Hickson road as a potential pit straight. However, with the Barangaroo project already underway I think this will be difficult. However, I do see it as an important straight as you continue on Hickson Road through one of my iconic corners I’ve plotted; under the harbour bridge overlooking the Opera House. If I can provide the Barangaroo development area plenty of options to get residents in and out + show off it’s estate amongst the cameras without hiding it too much of it against the barriers; then I see little resistance. If I pitch this as the image to sell the Barangaroo area, then I should stand a chance with the developers.

        Right now, my first priority is to make a few different circuits around the city, then checking building estates, land regulations, etc will come second. Thirdly, once all my homework is done will come my pitch in ties with Clover Moore’s plans for Sydney for the next few years.

        I estimate this project to take over a year to organise before I proposal the idea the state government.

        Any suggestions or comments will be most helpful.

        Posted by Louie | January 29, 2013, 3:59 pm

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