Melbourne extends F1 deal

Melbourne will continue to host the Australian GP until at least 2020 after organisers secured a new long-term contract with Bernie Ecclestone.

Speculation that the popular event, which has opened the Formula 1 season on all but two occasions since replacing Adelaide as Australia's grand prix host city in 1996, could drop off the calendar for financial reasons has floated around for a number of years, while race promoter Ron Walker was an outspoken critic of the sport's new quieter engines following this year's race.

Melbourne's contract had been due to expire after 2015, however, in an announcement on Sunday the government of the state of Victoria revealed that following 12 months of negotiations a new five-year deal was signed with Ecclestone in London last week.

\"Formula 1 is a key pillar of Victoria's major sporting events strategy. This calendar is unrivalled worldwide, commencing with the Australian Tennis Open and Asian Football Cup in January, followed by the ICC Cricket World Cup in February, the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix in March, the AFL Final Series, and the Spring Racing Carnival,\" Premier of Victoria Denis Napthine said in a statement.

\"Regional Victoria is also prominent on the world stage with events such as the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix at Phillip Island, the Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach and the recently secured Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race in early next year.

\"Within this contract we hope to see Australia's own Daniel Ricciardo win the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix and become World Champion.

\"I congratulate Australian Grand Prix Corporation Chairman Ron Walker for his success as a tough negotiator in getting the best deal for Victoria.\"

Ecclestone added: \"I congratulate Melbourne for the excellent way in which it presents Formula 1 to the world.\"

Although provisional details of next season's F1 calendar have yet to be revealed, the statement added that \"Australia is set to host the opening round of the 2015 FIA Formula One World Championship on 12 - 15 March\".