Australian GP won't have Djokovic-style vaccine drama

The Australian Grand Prix is well placed to avoid a Novak Djokovic/Australian Open-style border stand-off, says event boss Andrew Westacott.

The Melbourne skyline at sunset

The Australian Grand Prix Corporation CEO is confident that all parties, including the federal and state governments and Formula 1, are clear on the entry requirements for both Australia and the Albert Park venue.

That should help the event steer clear of any border controversies similar to Djokovic's recent deportation from Australia.

The tennis star spent the past few weeks locked in battle with the Australian government after arriving in the country ahead of the Australian Open under the impression he had been granted a medical exemption from the double vaccination requirement.

His visa was revoked shortly after he arrived, only for the revocation to be overturned in court a few days later.

The government then cancelled his visa a second time which, after a second appeal, saw Djokovic deported.

According to Westacott, Formula 1 fully understands the rules for people entering Australia, and the Australian GP will be a 100 percent vaccination event.

"We've worked very closely with the Victorian government throughout 2021 and in the lead up to 2022," he said. "And of course we've worked very, very closely with Formula 1.

"The rules are simple to get into the country and the rules are simple to operate in Formula 1. To come in for the event you'll be 100 percent vaccinated and there won't be exemptions sought for anyone, from anyone.

"Formula 1 has recognised around the world that they always need to comply with the rules at the borders for the jurisdictions in which they race. They've raced in 41 locations since Melbourne in 2020 and we're going to be welcoming them into the country. The know the rules and we're very, very comfortable with that.

"I think it goes without saying they will be a 100 percent vaccination and compliant with the laws. And that means when they come here to Melbourne they're going to be operating in a very, very safe regime. That's an underlined, defined position.

Albert Park modifications

Albert Park modifications

Photo by: Australian Grand Prix Corporation

"Our arrangements have been in place well before the recent goings on with the Australian Open. We've worked very closely with the federal government, the state government, Formula 1 and the FIA for probably a year and a half on this."

Westacott added that the AGP is in no danger of being called off, despite the Omicron wave that is currently battering the east coast of Australia.

The country recorded the deadliest day of the pandemic so far today with 88 deaths while record numbers of cases sweep across the eastern seaboard, New South Wales and Victoria in particular.

However Westacott says there is "zero chance" of fans being left stranded at the gates like they were in 2020 when the event was called off at short notice.

"[Fans] can be guaranteed that that won't be happening again," he said.

"We're confident that we will deliver. We've seen what's happening in Australia, I can't remember when a major event was now recently cancelled.

"We're staging this event. But we may have to do so with different mitigation requirements. Now we'll work with the Victorian government on those mitigation requirements. But the really important thing is that people should feel confident to come out and purchase tickets.

"I'll go on record and say [there is] zero chance of cancellation. We're going to start building the track on the first of February."

Those "mitigation requirements" could include a cap on crowd capacity, such as the 50 percent limit slapped on the Australian Open.

But, as it stands, Westacott says the AGPC is still working towards a capacity crowd.

"We're working on 100 per cent until we're told otherwise," he said. "We're building extra grandstands. We're putting new hospitality facilities on sale. We're increasing the amount of GA [general admission] viewing hubs in the venue."

The Australian Grand Prix will take place on 7-10 April, and will be the third event on the 2022 F1 calendar following the Bahrain and Saudi Arabian GPs.

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