‘A lot of money for nothing’: Fans’ frustration over Grand Prix ticket change

Key points

  • Record crowds are expected at this year’s melbourne F1 Grand Prix.
  • However, a series price hikes have frustrated some of the fans most hardcore fans.
  • The price of a general admission four-day pass has increased 32 per cent on last year.
  • Those looking for special experiences at the race say the event is much more expensive to attend than in years gone by.

As organisers gear up for record-setting crowds at the Australian Grand Prix, some of the sport’s most loyal fans are unhappy about changes made to the event’s VIP ticketing program.

Ticket holders to the event’s Access23 program no longer have access to exclusive viewing areas provided at last year’s event despite a price hike of almost $150.

Crowds gather at the gate of the Australian Grand Prix before the final day of racing in Melbourne last year. Credit:The Age

The program, which is an add-on to general admission or grandstand tickets, was introduced last year (called AusGP Access at the time).

For 2022, the program operated on a four-tier model, with ticket prices ranging from $55 to $550 – the higher the cost, the more benefits included.

Perks within the program included pre-sale access to the following year’s grand prix, pit lane walks, access to exclusive viewing areas and driving experiences.

However, this year, the modelling of the program was changed and the base price for the same ticket increased to $200 – with fewer perks included.

“It’s really disappointing. It’s a lot of money for nothing”

Courtney Hudson, a self-proclaimed motorsport fanatic, purchased the base-tier ticket last year for $55.

Despite the base price for this year’s ticket increasing to $200, Hudson bought the Access23 pass again to get access to next year’s pre-sale, as well as access to exclusive viewing areas at the Melbourne Walk and fan forum stage.

Those areas operate on a first come, first served basis, and are available for all general admission ticket holders.

Fans can greet drivers, team principals and teams arriving at the arena at the Melbourne Walk, and watch interviews with them at the fan forum stage.

“The justification for me spending the $200 was because the section at the front of the fan forum stage is worth it – there’s so many people who go to them,” Hudson said.

After noticing the website did not mention dedicated areas at either the Melbourne Walk or stage, Hudson emailed organisers, who told her it was no longer a benefit offered to Access23 holders.

“They’re trying to capitalise on the popularity of [Netflix documentary series] Drive to Survive. They know that people are going to pay the extra $200 for the pre-sale,” Hudson said.

“It’s really disappointing. It’s a lot of money for nothing.”

Before the program was scrapped, AusGP members were given free access to pit lane walks. Credit:Pool AP

Australian Grand Prix’s general manager for corporate affairs Haydn Lane said that, while the benefits of the program have changed, patrons now had greater options.

“The Access23 pricing structure changed from a tiered system in 2022 to an a la carte model in 2023, providing patrons the option to scale their purchase based on the individual experiences they desire,” he said.

Due to the “a la carte model”, fans must first buy the $200 ticket, known as a “base token”. That ticket includes pre-sale access to next year’s grand prix, a Thursday general admission pass (an adult ticket costs $36), and a five per cent discount on merchandise.

The token then “unlocks” additional experiences to purchase at extra expense. These experiences include a tour of the pit lane (priced at $150), or a lap around the track in a race car.

However, the majority of these experiences cannot be purchased outright – fans must bid for them in auctions.

The program drew criticism from fans when it started in 2022, as some of the experiences available to purchase had been free for GP Advantage members – a loyalty program that was scrapped in 2019.

“GP Advantage was a popular program for many years, but due to the incredible growth in demand for tickets to the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix, the program, simply, was no longer sustainable,” Lane said.

“Access23 is a new program which offers all fans the opportunity to add experiences to their tickets.”

Over the past three years, general admission tickets to the event have also increased. Between 2020 and 2023 an adult four-day general admission ticket has increased by 35 per cent.

The highest percentage increases between 2022 and 2023 for general admission were the Friday concession (68 per cent increase); Friday adult (52 per cent increase); and the four-day concession (50 per cent increase).

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