F1 Wants To Stay Down Under As Cost Concerns Threaten Australian GP’s Future
Growing complaints about the high cost of hosting the Australian F1 Grand Prix, which are, according to Australian newspaper reports, around A$34M ($44M) annually, have threatened the future of the race. F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone, however, downplayed the uproar and said, “We hope we're going to be in Melbourne forever, although we do get a bit of criticism, and I don't know why. We're happy with Melbourne, and I'd be happy to sign a 50-year contract.” The Australian Grand Prix Corp., which organizes the Australian GP, rejected Ecclestone’s statement as nothing more but a “wonderful sentiment.” The 2012 annual report of the Australian Grand Prix Corp. revealed that last year’s race lost A$56.6M, as revenue of A$36.4M stood opposite expenditures of A$93M. The deficit had to be picked up by the Victorian state government. Annual reports also revealed that the Grand Prix’s losses have increased from A$34.6M in ’07 to last year’s A$56.6M. The race’s contract with Formula One Management is set to expire in ’15. Despite recently saying that he intended to come to Victoria to start negotiations for a contract extension, Ecclestone will snub the Melbourne race for a fifth straight year. The Australian Grand Prix Corp. did not respond to multiple interview requests. His decision to forgo a trip to Australia could hint at Ecclestone’s readiness to axe the Australian Grand Prix -- unless it becomes a night race. Ecclestone said the Australian GP is “probably the least viable of all the races we have" given the time difference to the European market, and with other venues waiting for their opportunity. He added, "We have a contract which we will respect, so up until 2015 we are in good shape. After then, we really don't know. If we were to have a divorce from our friends in Melbourne, we would probably be walking away from Australia. Because I can't see how Adelaide could make [a night race] happen, or anywhere else, if Melbourne can't.” Several drivers including Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton said they back the idea to see Melbourne alternate normal daylight races with a floodlit race once every three years. The future of the Australian GP hangs in the balance, and while the idea of a night race could save its spot on the F1 calendar. Officials will be very reluctant to spend additional money for lighting as taxpayers are already complaining about the race’s high costs. Australia joined the F1 calendar in ’85 with a street course in Adelaide. The South Australian city hosted the country’s F1 race for 10 years, before it moved to its current location at Melbourne’s Albert Park in ’96.
WHAT ABOUT SOUTH AMERICA? The racing series’ lone South American race in Brazil could get some company in the near future. Recent media reports suggested that Argentina could make an F1 comeback and replace the struggling South Korean race. Argentine Minister of Tourism Enrique Meyer told Italian website Autosprint: “The National Government accepts the challenge of organizing the Grand Prix of Argentina to promote the image of our country around the world. In May, the three-year contract will be signed between all parties involved." Argentina last hosted an F1 Grand Prix in ’98. The Brazilian Grand Prix, which takes place at Interlagos circuit in Sao Paulo has a contract with F1 through ’14. However, Ecclestone revealed last year that if the track wants to retain its F1 race until at least ’20 then it has to undergo major improvements. Ecclestone said, “I have long believed in Brazil -- we've been there since 1972. The future of Formula One Brazil depends now on major improvements at Interlagos. These events (World Cup and Olympics) are a great opportunity to look at the circuit, as well.” The organizers of the Brazilian F1 race, GP Brasil, did not respond to multiple interview requests.