As it will undoubtedly prove for each of the other 18 races on the 2010 Formula One schedule, the Australian Grand Prix
is reporting positive fall-out from the much-hyped re-appearance of Michael Schumacher on the grand prix grid.
The country's Herald Sun
newspaper reports that the German's decision to sign with the rebranded Mercedes GP team, despite having to abandon a comeback with Ferrari
in 2009, has boosted tickets sales by up to 20 per cent over recent seasons, with organisers now hoping that the race can return to previous levels of popularity when it hosts round twoof the championship.
"The Schumacher factor has made a big difference," Australian Grand Prix
Corporation CEO Drew Ward confirmed, "Ticket sales are up, we have all the ingredients, and I can't think of a time when we have been better prepared."
Ward also added that the return of national hero Mark Webber, now in a competitive car with Red Bull
Racing, would also make a major difference to the attendance figures.
"He is a genuine contender in a top team," Ward said of the man who turned up at last year's Australian race - the season-opener - still limping heavily after breaking his leg in a road accident while competing in his own adventure race in Tasmania.
Webber went on to win two races in 2009, breaking his duck at the Nurburgring
before contributing to Red Bull's sterling campaign with a second victory in Brazil. The Milton Keynes team ended the year by winning the final three races, claiming second overall in both championships and inspiring the design of many 2010 contenders.
Schumacher, meanwhile, returns with the team that took both 2009 crowns under the guise of Brawn GP, before being invested in by Mercedes. The seven-time champion will team up with fellow German Nico Rosberg, harbouring hopes of adding an eighth title at the age of 41.
“I look forward to coming back to Australia to meet a couple of friends, especially Mick [Doohan] and the family - and then to just enjoy the country because it's always lovely to be there,” Schumacher said in a pre-recorded interview for the race's official launch, “Last year, I was there in my advisor role [with Ferrari] and, this year, coming back as a race driver it will be interesting. A new team, working together with my old friend Ross [Brawn], riding in a Mercedes car - it's a good combination that causes great excitement.”