Bernie wants 50 years of Oz GP
SPENDING MORE THAN IT MAKES: The Australian GP cost taxpayers much more than the revenue it made in 2012, that's after Bernie's R257-million cut.
SYDNEY, Australia - Formula 1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone said he would happily sign a contract for Melbourne to host a Grand Prix for 50 years, declaring "everybody loves Australia".
The sport has a contract with Melbourne until 2015 and other cities have expressed interest in snapping up the event which Ecclestone has previously said was the "least viable" on the F1 calendar.
Ecclestone said he hoped to travel to Melbourne for the season-opening 2013 race on March 17, the start of the year in which negotiations on a new contract should to begin.
'MELBOURNE FOR EVER'
Ecclestone said: "Everybody loves Australia, loves Australian people and it's good to be there because it's the first race, it's nice, it's relaxed. We hope we're going to be in Melbourne for ever, although I understand we do get a little bit of criticism and I don't know why.
"We're happy with Melbourne. I'd be happy to sign a 50-year contract. So we don't have a problem with Melbourne."
Ecclestone revealed that other Australian states had contacted him to poach the event from Victoria State but he indicated he was determined to keep the race in the southern capital. "We get proposals from other parts, but we're happy in Melbourne."
Ahead of the 2012 race Ecclestone floated the idea of "a divorce from our friends in Melbourne" and "walking away from Australia" when the contract expires. "The race itself, from our point of view, is probably the least viable of all the races we have," he said back then.
Ecclestone also said he was keen on a night race in 2012, which would fit better with European time zones and help to sell TV rights there.
Such a move would likely be opposed by residents who live around Melbourne's Albert Park circuit, as well as costing the Victoria state government more to stage.
The 2012 race cost Oz taxpayers R5.1-billion more than the revenue it generates, with R257-million of that reportedly going to Ecclestone for the right to host the race.
Ecclestone said the fee was "purely what the race cost" and included bringing six jumbo air-freighters to Australia.
Melbourne has hosted a GP annually since 1996.