One can always rely on discussions over the future of Australian Grand Prix to spring up at this time of year, and true to form, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has poured petrol on the embers to reignite the debate once again.
Mr Ecclestone’s position on the Australian Grand Prix is clear: unless the event accepts his demands to switch to a night race to make itself ore suitable to European TV audiences, then the race’s contract to remain at Albert Park will not be renewed beyond the end of its current deal, which runs out after the 2015 race.
The position of the Australian Grand Prix authorities is equally clear. Concessions have already been made to switch the race to late in the afternoon (this started in 2009), and the event has been operating at massive losses ever since Melbourne took over hosting rights in 1996. Last year’s race posted a loss of almost $50 million, with state taxpayers having to foot the bill.
“If we were having a divorce from our friends in Melbourne, we would probably be walking away from Australia,” he told the British newspapers yesterday. “We wouldn’t want to leave Melbourne.
“[But] we have other races ready to take the place of Australia – which we don’t want to happen,” he added. “But it would be wrong of me to have to report to our board, ‘Terribly sorry about this but we have to walk away from Wherever to retain Australia’.”
By way of some concession, Ecclestone admitted that he would consider a reduction in his event sanctioning fee to offset the expense the organisers would face in lighting the Albert Park circuit to support a night race from 2016 onwards.
“Maybe we could help subsidise that a little bit,” he said.
In any respect, his comments made headlines in the sporting sections of the Australian media this morning, which will equally guarantee that interest in the Australian Grand Prix continues to bubble along nicely for the next two weeks.