Will Melbourne retain the Australian GP?
Numerous media outlets are reporting that Melbourne is on the cusp of a new contract to keep the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park beyond 2015. Talks between Formula One boss, Bernie Ecclestone, and Grand Prix chairman, Ron Walker, were reportedly productive during the Singapore Grand Prix last weekend and the proposal will be put to the Victorian government shortly.
The staging of the Grand Prix in Melbourne has been the centre of fierce public debate in recent times. Opponents of the annual event contend that the Grand Prix is an unreasonable waste of taxpayer funds, with this year’s race costing taxpayers over 50 million dollars. However, local benefactors of Formula One’s curtain-raising event highlight the value of global exposure and subsequent tourism upturns in counter-weighing the excessive taxpayer expense.
According to a “well-placed F1 source”, the offer to keep the race in Melbourne is nearing completion.
“The deal is pretty much done and will now go to the Cabinet for approval,” said the source.
Victorian Premier, Denis Napthine, must sign-off on the deal before it is implemented. Dr Napthine has stated his intention to keep the race in Melbourne; however the Liberal leader will only do so if it is within his desired economic scope.
“We’ve got Ron Walker in negotiations with Bernie Ecclestone and his group,” Dr Napthine said. “We would support the Grand Prix – we would like the Grand Prix – but not at any price – we want to get fair value for the taxpayers’ dollar.”
According to Dr Napthine, there is no urgency to sign a long-term Grand Prix deal and he is willing to hold-off until a fair and economically viable contract is on the table.
“My message to Bernie is that we want a fair deal for Victorian taxpayers,” he continued. “And we certainly won’t be paying exorbitant fees to Bernie or anyone else.”
Speaking at the Australian premiere of Ron Howard’s RUSH in Melbourne, Australian Grand Prix Chief Executive, Andrew Westacott, was buoyant about the future prospects of the event.
“There are two years in the current contract to go and our job is to make sure we can get it in Melbourne beyond 2015,” said Mr Westacott. “Melbourne is a great city because of things like Formula One so I’m confident that we can strike a deal that is acceptable for the government.”
“Things are heading in the right direction, and it will come down to the government’s desire to keep major events on the calendar in Melbourne,” explained Mr Westacott when questioned about the progression of negotiations during the Singapore Grand Prix weekend.
The Australian Grand Prix was relocated to Melbourne in 1996 after a 10 year stint in Adelaide from 1985 until 1995. The current contract expires at the conclusion of the 2015 edition of the race.
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