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F1: Daniel Ricciardo will win Australian GP, says CEO Westacott

CEO of the season-opening Australian GP predicts local hero Ricciardo will triumph at Albert Park on Sunday

Melbourne: With the famous Albert Park in central Melbourne ready to host the the Australian Grand Prix (March 13-15) this weekend, Andrew Westacott, the CEO of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation (AGPC), which organises the race, tells mid-day in an exclusive interview about the efforts that go into organising the first GP of the season and why he thinks local hero and Red Bull racer Daniel Ricciardo will rule.

Excerpts:

On setting a benchmark as the first F1 race of the season...
That's one of the many things that puts pressure on us because we want to benchmark ourselves as the best F1 event in the world. For that, we put as much pressure on ourselves as a F1 team's drivers, engineers and support staff etc, would.

AGPC CEO Andrew Westacott. Pic/Aashwin Ferro
AGPC CEO Andrew Westacott. Pic/Aashwin Ferro 

On the time taken for construction & preparatory work...
From a build point of view, it's an eight-week build and a four to five week dismantling of the whole structure. It's a street circuit around a park that is actually utilised by six million Melbournians each year. We close the park for one week only and in that one week, it's open for four days due to the race. So realistically, we only close the park for three days.

On innovations in ticketing...
We thrive on making F1 a family event and a value for money for fans. A couple of interesting things that I'd like to highlight in the ticketing aspect is that children 12 years and under are allowed to watch the race for free. Secondly, we offer a four-corner package, where fans can sit in a different Grand Stand across all the days – they can choose the Grand Stand they want to sit in on the final day of the Grand Prix.

On local hero Ricciardo...
Daniel Ricciardo is our headline driver for the Australian GP. F1 is growing in popularity in Australia as are other motorsports and for that you need local heroes. In Moto GP, we had Wayne Gardner, five-time world champion Mick Doohan and Casey Stoner. In F1, we had Mark Webber for 12 years. Coincidentally, after Webber announced his retirement, we've had another Australian in Ricciardo to fill his shoes. Ricciardo is a young and exciting driver, who's already taking F1 by storm.

On whether the Aus GP will ever be a night race...
No, because the day race here showcases the park and the Albert Park Lake and the shores of Port Phillip Bay. Besides, Melbourne looks best during the day. From a branding point of view too, it beams on TV into Asia around lunch time and in Europe around breakfast time, which is perfect.

On who will win the 2015 Aus GP...
You may call me biased, but Ricciardo proved that he can get on the podium last year. He finished second last year, though he was later disqualified. But then he went on to win the Canadian GP, the Hungarian GP and the Belgian GP and eventually finished third in the world championship. So, I have no doubt that Ricciardo will win the 2015 Australian GP.

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