Bernie keen on Melbourne stay
F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone wants to keep a Melbourne Grand Prix on the race calendar in the face of local opposition and rival bids.
The Australian GP, a fixture at Albert Park since moving from Adelaide for the 1996 F1 season, has come under scrutiny from local politicians and residents groups due to the considerable costs incurred by the taxpayer in staging the event.
The race is contracted to stay in the Victorian capital until 2015, but its future beyond that date appears uncertain.
While it remains to be seen if the government and local council will seek to extend the deal, they appear to have a willing partner in Ecclestone.
Speaking to the Australian GP's Keeping Track podcast, the Ecclestone voiced his preference for renewing the existing arrangement.
"We hope we're going to be in Melbourne forever. We're happy with Melbourne and I'd be happy to sign a 50-year contract. We don't have a problem with Melbourne," he said.
"I understand we do get a little bit of criticism. I don't know why. You start wondering are we really wanted in Melbourne?
"It appears to be (wanted) now; whenever these sorts of things happen I'm told, 'Don't be silly about that, it's just one or two people making a noise. We're happy for Formula One to be there."'
According to Ecclestone, other parties have expressed their interest in taking the race away from Melbourne.
"We get proposals from other parts, but we're happy in Melbourne," he said.
"Everybody loves Australia and loves Australian people, and it's good to be there... and Melbourne, in itself, is a nice place."
And the body which facilitates the annual showcase, the Grand Prix Corporation, acknowledged the threat of rival suitors.
"There is always a risk from the other states and this is why Melbourne can never be complacent when it comes to major events and doing things that is going to keep Melbourne in the tourist branding and business eye of the world," Grand Prix Corporation chief Andrew Westacott told radio station 3AW.
The season-opening Australian GP will take place on March 17.