F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has declared he is prepared to negotiate a release for Melbourne to host the Australian Grand Prix, with the Albert Park circuit currently holding a contract up to the 2015 season.
His threats came after Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle suggested that the city should relinquish its hosting duties, citing continued financial losses and depleting public interest in the March event.
To-date, state taxpayers have poured almost $250 million to prop up ongoing losses since the first race in 1996, which recorded a $1.5 million loss. Last year’s event was in the red to the tune of almost $50 million.
In an interview with Melbourne’s 3AW radio station, Ecclestone said: “If the mayor thinks I’m cranky, I can probably be able to help him by proving it.
“If he’s not happy with the event in Australia, if he wants to cancel the contract, we’d be happy to talk to him about that. If he wishes to cease having the event in Melbourne, I am happy to discuss that with him.”
Ecclestone also added that Melbourne had held the Australian Grand Prix for a long time, having taken over hosting duties from Adelaide, which held the race between 1985 and 1995.
“I wouldn’t say [the race would stay] indefinitely,” he added.
“We’ve stayed an awful long time. There is no reason why we should leave. It’s up to him, if he wants to talk about terminating the contract … he should talk to someone in our organisation if he thinks I’m cranky and see what he can come up with.”
He then finished by ending with a typically Bernie back-hander: “I bet I should be dealing with these things longer than he is going to be Mayor in Melbourne.”
Ecclestone has been applying serious pressure for some years to having the event’s organisers move the race to a more European-friendly night race schedule to better cater for the demands of the Western TV audiences.
[Original image via Reuters]