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2012-03-01 11:24

END OF AUSTRALIAN GP? Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel poses on the podium next to McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, after winning the 2011 Aus GP race. Unless Melbourne can fix it's finances F1 could be lost from Australia in the near future.

MELBOURNE, Australia - The Australian F1 GP is "probably" the least economically viable on the calendar and is unlikely to continue if Melbourne loses its appetite to pay the bill for the race, according to Bernie Ecclestone.

Melbourne has hosting rights until 2015 but the rising cost of holding the race has fuelled calls for the state government of Victoria to ditch the race.

From reporting a loss of less than R16-million in the first GP at Melbourne's Albert Park circuit in 1996, taxpayers now pay more than R374-million, with the costs expected to rise further in coming years.

The Liberal government, however, wants to keep it beyond 2015 because of citing its promotional value to Australia's second city.

Ecclestone said if Melbourne could not afford the race, it was unlikely any other Australian city could.

NOT IN GOOD SHAPE

"I can't see how Adelaide could make it happen, or anywhere else, if Melbourne can't," he said, referring to the South Australian state capital, the GP's inaugural venue. The race, is probably the least viable of all the races we have."

Ecclestone has said he wants the race to remain in Melbourne and has threatened to take it elsewhere should local officials try to negotiate lower licence fees that are estimated to cost the equivalent of R224 million a year.

He has also complained about the time zone being unfriendly for European broadcasters and repeated his call for Melbourne to turn it into a night race, like the Singapore GP, despite drivers' safety concerns.

Ecclestone said: "We would have a look, maybe we could help subsidise that a little bit. Up until 2015, we're in good shape. After then, I really don't know."

The Australian GP will open the F1 season on March 18.



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