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Ecclestone keen not to lose Australian GP

NEWS STORY
16/03/2011

Despite politicians in Melbourne telling him exactly what he can do with his race, Bernie Ecclestone claims he would hate to see Australia drop off the F1 calendar.

Speaking in a teleconference with members of the Australian media, the F1 supremo insisted that Australia is one of the most important events on the calendar.

"Australia is as important to us as Monaco," he said. "It's part of the world championship and has been for an awful long time. We'd hate to think that we're going to lose Australia.

"In the case of Melbourne," he continued, "if the product is too expensive for them, we understand that and when the contract comes to an end there's no need to renew it. We wouldn't force somebody to buy something that they don't want or think is too expensive. We get massive worldwide television coverage... if that's not important well, okay, don't buy the product."

Melbourne's contract to host the Grand Prix runs until 2015, but in the face of continually rising losses - all borne by the taxpayer - there is a growing feeling that the city should dump the event.

In January, Melbourne's Lord Mayor, Robert Doyle, called for the race to be dropped, claiming that annual losses on the event could soon reach $70m AUD (42.3m). The 2010 event saw a total loss of $49.4m AUD (29.5m), and followed a loss of $40m for the 2009 event, indeed, the losses have been steadily growing since 2005 when the Albert Park event lost $13m (5.3m).

Other than money however, Ecclestone want Australia's round of the championship moved to a timeslot more user friendly for TV viewers in Europe, essentially meaning the race would need to be held at night. Being in the middle of the city this would not be possible at Albert Park however, as Mat Coch recently pointed out there are virtually no alternatives.

Asked if the Melbourne would have been better off with a purpose built circuit as opposed to holding the race in a public park, Ecclestone said: "I suppose in reality it would have been the right thing to do. It would have been 10 years ago or whatever and it would have been built cheaper than it would be today."

Whether he wants to lose the Australian GP or not, our sources claim Ecclestone is already resigned to the fact that it is gone, while Barcelona and Valencia will host the Spanish Grand Prix on a rotating basis. After all, how else does he make room for Austin and Russia when the calendar is limited to 20 rounds?

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