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Bernie threatens Melbourne

NEWS STORY
20/05/2007

Taking time off from his continual battle with the British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC), owners of Silverstone, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has set his sights on the organizers of the Australian GP in Melbourne, warning that unless the event is held at night, he may take the race elsewhere.

However, other than his demands for a night race, there are further threats to the sport's future in Melbourne - which has hosted Australia's round of the World Championship since 1996 - as revealed in an interview with the Sunday Herald Sun.

"When the contract comes up, we have to have a look and see exactly what we will be doing with Melbourne," said the Englishman. ""Unless they (the organisers) can come up with something satisfactory, I'm pretty sure we wouldn't be able to continue there.

"I would like to make sure we can watch (the race) in Europe and other parts of the world at a respectable time rather than having to get up at three or four in the morning," he added. A comment that will be regarded as extremely arrogant (to say the least) to all those living outside Europe, especially Australians, who have to watch almost every race in the 'wee small hours', that's when the race is televised.

With that in mind, Ecclestone is also demanding that all F1 races be shown live in Australia, which, should it happen (unlikely), would be good news for F1 fans in Australia in the sense that they could follow the championship live, even if the majority of the races were shown in the early hours of the morning. Then again, as happened last week, for the Spanish GP, broadcasting of the race was delayed for over an hour while Channel 10 showed an 'update' to the current Big Brother series.

Ecclestone also accused - the word used by the Sunday Herald Sun - Australia of failing to get behind F1, claiming: "It seems that Melbourne tried to get behind F1 and always has done, but the rest of Australia doesn't seem to get behind it."

This might well be true, however, the same could also be said of the United Kingdom which is only now witnessing an upsurge of interest in F1, thanks mainly to the on track success, and the media coverage, of Lewis Hamilton.

However, though Australians might not "get behind F1", preferring competitive motorsport series such as V8s, in addition to providing two World Champions, they have poured plenty of money into the sport, the race in Melbourne demanding ever increasing subsidies from the local government, money provided by taxpayers, many of whom wouldn't cross the road to watch an F1 race.

"The contract runs until 2010," said Ecclestone, "but we haven't begun negotiating that yet. He then said that "a night Grand Prix has never been formally proposed", adding "ultimately the Victorian Government will decide what is best for Melbourne."

With regards the Melbourne event becoming a night race, an 'insider' told the Sunday Herald Sun: "I don't think it is going to happen. To have F1 cars hooning around Albert Park at 9pm won't go down well with the locals and it's a family event, so afternoon is obviously the ideal time."

This is in line with comments from Pitpass readers since the idea of a night race was first mooted. Then again, there are a whole range of other issues that need to be addressed, not least the safety aspect of a night race, with regards spectators and competitors, and, more importantly, considering the on-going 'greening' of the sport, the environmental aspects of a night race.

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