April 11, 2022 | By Bronwen Largier | Image: Australian F1 Grand Prix Facebook page

After more than 1,000 days off the Albert Park track, the Australian F1 Grand Prix has returned to Melbourne with record crowds declared by organisers.

The Australian Grand Prix Corporation has released an attendance figure of 419,114 for the four-day event which began on Thursday and wrapped up yesterday, with around 130,000 expected to attend the big race on Sunday.

The record numbers for Melbourne represent a triumphant return for the Australian event which was cancelled just as it was due to get underway in 2020, after the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 a global pandemic the same week, and was delayed and then cancelled again in 2021.

However, there has been some controversary around Grand Prix numbers after the Australian organising organisation declined to release exact attendance figures in the past, citing security concerns.

Australian Grand Prix Corporation CEO Andrew Westacott told Sky News last week that they had seen a change in the demographics of the event in 2022, with attendees going from a 75 per cent male and 25 per cent female ratio to a 60-40 male to female split.

The Netflix show F1: Drive to Survive has been credited with widening the audience reach of the sport.

According to other media reports, crowds for the 2022 Australian Grand Prix were capped at around 130,000 per day, meaning the event was never going to break the record set by the final Australian F1 Grand Prix staged in Adelaide in 1995, which saw 210,000 attend the Sunday race – an F1 global record at the time. The cumulative attendance of the final Adelaide event – at around 525,000 across four days – also trumps this year’s figures in Melbourne.

Changes to the racetrack for this year were introduced to make the race more exciting – including creating more space for overtaking and introducing a higher friction track surface which was likely to increase the numbers of pitstops in the race.

Some feedback on social media highlighted issues with long wait times for food and beverage and the availability of toilets at the event, while others defended the problems, calling out the issues with availability of hospitality and event staff caused by the pandemic.