A feasibility study on alternative venues for the Australian Grand Prix close to its present home of Melbourne will not lead to the race moving away from Albert Park, Victoria state premier John Brumby has insisted – despite suggestions that a new project could end up being less expensive for the country's taxpayers.
The grand prix has been held around Albert Park's semi-permanent circuit since 1996, when it took over from Adelaide, a city that had welcomed Formula 1 since 1985, when the nation gained an official spot on the sport's annual calendar.
The race has been threatened with the chop on a number of occasions in recent years, however, and news that trucking company Linfox has been seriously looking into the possible construction of a new, $200m track at Avalon airport close to Melbourne has prompted further whispers that Albert Park's days on the schedule could be numbered. Not so, argues Brumby.
“I saw the speculation about it,” he admitted in an interview with the Geelong Advertiser
, “but I think [regarding] the grand prix itself, they're pretty happy with where they are. I don't think it has gone any further than that (a feasibility study).”
The race has run at a significant loss for a number of years now – to the tune of $16 million in 2008 and an anticipated $40 million in 2009 – with Brumby's government picking up the tab. Linfox director Andrew Fox told the Herald Sun
newspaper that the new venture could help to save a considerable amount of money in the long-term.
“If the government could extend the agreement with Bernie Ecclestone then we believe we can justify a new facility of an F1 standard – world's best practice – at Avalon,” Fox underlined. “It would be wrong of the government not to address something that might be of less expense for the taxpayers.”
Albert Park currently has a contract with F1 chief executive Ecclestone to host the Australian Grand Prix until 2015 – meaning there would be ample time to design and build a new circuit.