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Why car brands like Toyota, Ford, Porsche and more want to be at Melbourne F1 week

Porsche had a significant presence at the F1 Grand Prix with the Mission X concept, but it didn't have a car on the F1 grid.

And so the Melbourne Grand Prix comes to a close for another year, wrapping up one of the most exciting weeks in the automotive calendar, and the streets of Albert Park can fall silent, returning to pleasant suburban obscurity.

But the Formula 1 is about so much more than a fleet of single-seaters bumping gloves for a couple hours on a Sunday afternoon, and the entire week is the car world’s equivalent of a golf course where many of the year’s deals are either hatched or sealed. Actually, part of Albert Park is a golf course.

Right at the start of Grand Prix week, there’s an event that provides the perfect analogy as to why the F1 is such a vital part of Australia’s automotive industry calendar - Glamour on the Grid.

This ultra-exclusive event is the official launch party for Grand Prix week with Australia’s A-list celebrities and personalities descending to kick off F1 in a fabulous amount of style.

Yes, there were a handful of racing drivers, team representatives and auto industry heavies, but it didn’t take long after arrival to establish that a majority of the Glamour on the Grid attendees had about as much to do with motorsport as haddock.

This serves as an appropriate metaphor for the broader F1 event and the car manufacturers you’ll see during the week.

Of the ten teams lining up on the grid for the main event, only half are car brands you can find in a showroom - Alpine, Aston Martin, Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes.

Yet stroll the various precincts and hospitality suites dotted about the Albert Park circuit and you’ll encounter many other familiar auto brands. Despite their absence from the FIA Formula 1 season, Ford, Toyota, Bentley, Porsche, Lamborghini among others all had significant stakes this year.

Just like the bejewelled guests arriving at the Wednesday night party, a brand doesn’t necessarily need to be hardwired to the Grand Prix for a place at the F1, and just being there is enough.

The value of appearing at the Grand Prix is multifaceted.

With the departure of a traditional motor show in 2012, the various OEMs have had to get creative with how customers and the public gain access to their products and people.

That’s why there’s an increasing presence at informal cars-and-coffee events around the country, as well as unorthodox shows such as the once exclusively classic car show Motorclassica (and its replacement Motors and Masterpieces) and the Melbourne EV show, for example.

The F1 is another vital opportunity to get close to the car community in a premium setting. Ford’s SuperVan, the stunning Porsche Mission X concept and Toyota’s freshly revealed GR Yaris Rally2 racer were all on show for all to see.

The Grand Prix also offers a chance for brands to have face-to-face discussions while hidden in plain sight. It’s not uncommon to see automotive and auto industry executives visiting each other’s (sometimes rival’s) hospitality suites for a bit of light PR … or perhaps more clandestine chat.

Finally, brand association is a powerful marketing tool and even a subtle presence at the F1 can pay dividends.

While a digital presence is of utmost importance in an online era, studies show that customers still appreciate a physical existence and having access to brands in the real world has a legitimacy that digital marketing cannot achieve alone.

Of course, all of these brand reinforcing advantages don’t come cheap. As you might expect, the various exhibitors aren’t keen to divulge just how much a show stand or corporate hospitality suite costs.

However, ticket prices offer an indication. Entry into the Formula 1 paddock club is about as affordable as it gets starting at nearly $800 for a Thursday ticket and heads skyward as the weekend approaches. Multiply that by the capacity of one suite and you have some idea of the required investment from a company that wants to book it out.

One pass for the The Park between turn 10 and 11 on Sunday? That’ll set you back $1550, while hanging out in the Red Bull Energy Station is a whopping $4595 for the day.

But these numbers are small fare compared with the entire facilities laid on by some of the brands. Both Porsche and Ferrari built reasonable sized temples to their brands offering customers the opportunity to come and worship with them.

Three days with Porsche at its beautiful venue at turn two would set you back nearly $8000, while access to the three-storey Casa Ferrari just past the finish flag was a cool $10,000. Factor in the cost to build the incredible temporary structures commissioned by many brands, catering, staff, fees and planning and the investment easily runs into seven figures.

But like Glamour on the Grid on the opening evening, there are few better ways of demonstrating industry relevance than turning up at the Grand Prix.

Daniel Gardner
Contributing Journalist
Daniel Gardner joined CarsGuide as a Contributing Journalist in 2023. During his long tenure in the automotive industry, Daniel has earned a degree in mechanical design, worked as a BMW technician...
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