• Australian Grand Prix 2011

Dispute threatens 2011 Australian Grand Prix

ESPNF1 Staff
November 12, 2010 « Webber, Button and Hamilton to sit out of Pirelli tyre test | »
Trouble down under at the Australian Grand Prix © Getty Images

The future of the 2011 Australian Grand Prix is under a cloud as a result of a dispute between the event's organisers and CAMS, the country's motorsport governing body.

It is understood that CAMS has been asked to lower the fees it charges to help organise the race - reported to be around US$750,000 - and to date has refused to do so. As the dispute threatens to escalate, CAMS has now threatened to suggest to the FIA to race be dropped from its schedule if a settlement is not reached by next weekend.

"CAMS is threatening us, using the FIA as a big stick, to comply with the request of November 19 or they will apply to have us de-registered off the calendar for next year," Australian Grand Prix boss Ron Walker told Autosport. "What we are saying is that CAMS has got to comply with all the other suppliers of services, and that is what CAMS are - a supplier of services. So under a process they have to tender their price.

"We have told them that they have got to reduce their price by a certain amount and they have said 'no, we are not a profit organisation', even though there are 1,500 volunteers. They are a monopoly, and the government will not stand for monopolies. Most countries will not have monopolies any more and neither will the competitions' commission in Brussels. They are opening a Pandora's Box in a big way by doing this."

As an indication of the seriousness of the situation, Walker has flown to Abu Dhabi to update Bernie Ecclestone and his associates on the dispute. However, he told Autosport he was not overly worried that the race would not happen. "I know it is going to be resolved because there are powers that be, such as [Jean] Todt and Ecclestone who are sure it will be resolved in an amicable way. But it is a pity it has gone this far."

Walker added Ecclestone's position was that he has a deal with the Victoria government and would not allow a row with CAMS to affect that.

One option might be for Walker to ditch CAMS altogether and bring in outside help. "The organisers at Silverstone would be very happy to organise Melbourne, the organiser of Abu Dhabi could organise it," he said. "There are plenty of organisers that would be delighted to come down under and be approved by the FIA. We believe we are being overcharged for the services being provided, and you can't be holier than thou to say: 'it is my service, you have to pay for it'."

CAMS has since hit back, saying that the safety of the event would be called into question if it was not involved. It said"only" it "has the experience, people and processes to safely organise" the race in Australia.

"This is an issue about safety and not fees and we do not believe the Australian Formula One grand prix can be run safely without the high degree of professional and safety expertise that CAMS can deliver," read a statement.

A deadline for the dispute is next Friday, when the World Motor Sport Council could be asked to remove Melbourne from the 2011 calendar.