Date registered: Sep 2004
Vehicle: 1985 500SEC, 1991 190E 2.6.
Location: Los Angeles / Hannover Germany
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Axe to fall on Australian Grand Prix?
crashnet Axe to fall on Australian Grand Prix?
Sun 10 Feb, 02:15 PM
Sport's supremo delivers withering verdict on fate of traditional season curtain-raiser.
Melbourne looks set to lose the position it has held on the grand prix calendar since 1996, after Bernie Ecclestone suggested the sport no longer wanted to visit Australia.
In a significant blow to the race's future, the F1 supremo angrily declared that both he as well as Formula 1's teams and sponsors wanted to quit Melbourne, in favour of more lucrative races elsewhere in the world that would afford better sponsorship opportunities and television audiences. He also slammed Victoria Premier John Brumby for having given 'scant support' to the event.
"Maybe we don't want to be in Australia," the 77-year-old told reporters for Melbourne newspaper the Herald Sun. "Our costs are very high in Australia and we get a lot less money. It's bloody bad for us.
"We've got quite a few places on the list which would like to have Formula 1, and it seems your guy [Brumby] down there doesn't want Formula 1. We can make him happy and make the other people happy."
Ecclestone added that he was under 'quite a lot' of pressure from other countries to hold races elsewhere, and dismissed speculation that the grand prix could be moved to Queensland, New South Wales or South Australia. He hinted at possible future races in India, Russia or Korea, suggesting Melbourne's current contract had little or no possibility of being renewed beyond its expiry date in 2010, its only slim chance being to follow Singapore's lead in hosting a night race.
"In Melbourne, if we were to continue to be there, we would have to have a night race - the only option," he added, underlining the fact that conditions would be non-negotiable.
"Why wouldn't we take it somewhere else [within Australia]? Unfortunately, we would have to consider the financial aspect for a start."
Last year's Australian Grand Prix lost almost $35 million AUD and, since 1996 when former premier Jeff Kennett lured the event away from Adelaide, it has lost more than $130 million AUD. Brumby has previously raised doubts about the future of the race in Melbourne, with revenue having dropped from $52.6 million AUD in 2005 to $43.4 million AUD in 2007, whilst over the same period of time expenditure rose from $66.2 million AUD to $78 million AUD.
The race is guaranteed at Albert Park for the next three years - with this year's event, to be held from 13-16 March, reported to be enjoying strong ticket sales - but the licence fee to continue holding it in 2010 is understood to be more than $40 million.
Ecclestone has yet to discuss the race's future with Australian Grand Prix chairman Ron Walker.
Meanwhile, Queensland's government and the Gold Coast City Council are not expected to enter into talks to hold a Formula 1 race there, with Gold Cost Mayor Ron Clarke instead re-affirming his council's full commitment to supporting the Champ Car race at Surfers' Paradise.
"The Indy [Champ Car] came to us," he stressed, speaking to the state's Courier Mail. "We have a contract. In the end it's really the Queensland Government's decision because we come to it as a third party or second cousin, but I think there will be some benefits out of this for the Indy from more people coming to the state."
Race chairman Terry Mackenroth echoed Clarke's contention that any possible demise for F1 in Australia would only help to secure Champ Car's long-term future in Queensland, particularly in terms of increased sponsorship interest in the event.
"I wouldn't think the government would bid for it [F1]," he underlined. "It's too expensive. We've got a great series and people are very happy with Indy."