Australia GP debate rages on

April 2, 2011 - 0:0

The 700 tons of cars, tyres and high-tech wizardry are on their way to Malaysia, Albert Park is once again a tranquil refuge from the city, but the debate about the Australian Grand Prix looks set to rage on.

Sebastian Vettel, the winner of last weekend's Formula One season-opener, said he loves the place but local opposition to Melbourne retaining the loss-making race beyond the current contract, which runs out in 2015, is growing.
Organisers have always maintained the race is worth the losses as it draws visitors to the city and acts as a major promotional tool for Melbourne around the world.
Their argument is set to be put to the test with auditors Ernst & Young commissioned by the government of the state of Victoria, which picks up the tab for the losses, to compile a report on the race's impact to be completed by the end of May.
The 2011 race attracted 298,000 paying fans to the circuit, 111,000 for the race on Sunday, meaning losses are expected be similar to the A$49.2 of last year.
""I'm very hopeful it will be the same as last year, perhaps a little bit less, but who knows,"" chief organiser Ron Walker told the ABC.
""It takes a while to get all the numbers put together and the auditors will present the (Victorian) government with the figures in the next three or four weeks.
""When you think we had three football matches over the weekend to compete with the grand prix, we still did very well and maintained the status of the grand prix as the largest single-day sporting event in Australia,"" he added.
Walker's suggestion that Australian rules football, by far the most popular winter sport in Victoria, should consider moving its opening weekend to avoid a clash with the race received short shrift.
Another Walker idea is to build a permanent circuit at Avalon outside the city centre to save the some A$14 million a year it costs to transform Albert Park into a race circuit.
Bernie Ecclestone has said he is not in a position to force Melbourne to renew the contract, but would ""hate"" to see Australia disappear from the Formula One calendar.
Judging by the enthusiasm for Melbourne displayed around the circuit last weekend, it seems, for once, the sport's commercial supremo was speaking for the whole of the Formula One paddock.
""It is really always very nice to come here,"" world champion Vettel said after the race.
""The atmosphere is something special. You do the drivers' parade and see the people going crazy.
""It is nice to see so many people coming and cheering for our sport. That is something we don't get everywhere. We really enjoy that and we have to keep coming here.""
(Source: Reuters)