• Australian Grand Prix

Political row overshadows Melbourne build-up

ESPNF1 Staff
March 7, 2010 « Hamilton admits he nearly quit F1 | »

With the Australian Grand Prix three weeks away, debate over its future continues to rumble on with growing unease over the cost to taxpayers of staging the race.

The FIA is known to be keen to relocate the grand prix - it has commissioned a feasibility study into Aus$200 million plans to move the event to a purpose-built site - and the idea has also received the support of state premier John Brumby.

Albert Park's current contract runs through 2015, but the event is increasingly controversial due to spiralling running costs that are picked up by the taxpayer. The FIA is also keen on a move as that would allow a night race which would have more appeal to the lucrative European market.

"One [choice] is to keep it at Albert Park, the second would be to terminate the grand prix or the third would be to move it somewhere [else]," Brumby told the Sunday Herald Sun. The paper added the Victorian Government and Australian Grand Prix Corporation bosses were anticipating a deficit close to Aus$50 million - about Aus$10 million more than last year.

Local politicians are also wasting no opportunity to score points. Victoria's deputy leader of the opposition Louise Asher, who was involved in arrangements for the inaugural Melbourne race in 1996, slammed Brumby. "We negotiated two contracts with [Bernie] Ecclestone, except when Ecclestone negotiated with us, he wasn't negotiating with bunnies," she said. "When I was minister in 1996, the loss was Aus$1.7 million and it's been just over Aus$40 million the last two years."

Ecclestone was unavailable for comment, but a spokeswoman for him told the newspaper he supported any move that made Melbourne a night race.

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