Bernie Ecclestone has hinted that he could be prepared to drop the Australian Grand Prix from the F1 calendar if race organisers don't agree to make the event a night race.
While Ecclestone has been keen to make the Albert Park event a night race in order to suit a European TV audience, organisers have been unprepared to shift from the current early evening start-time – citing numerous reasons why they feel the change wouldn't be possible.
However, in an interview with The Age
, Ecclestone revealed that unless the change occurred, he would be prepared to walk away from Australia even if would prefer to see the country retain a slot on the calendar.
"We have a contract which we will respect - so up until 2015 we are in good shape," he said. "After then, we really don't know. If we were to have a divorce from our friends in Melbourne we would probably be walking away from Australia. Because I can't see how Adelaide could make it happen, or anywhere else, if Melbourne can't. The race itself, from our point of view, is probably the least viable of all the races we have.
"We have other races ready to take the place of Australia - which we don't want to happen. But it would be wrong of me to have to report to our board, 'Terribly sorry about this but we have to walk away from wherever to retain Australia'."
Ecclestone's comments about the Australian race come at the same time as the commercial rights holder said he hoped Aussie driver Mark Webber to emerge as the biggest challenger to his Red Bull team-mate Sebastian Vettel during the year ahead.
"I just hope, I really, really, genuinely hope that Mark has a good crack at the title this year because it would be nice to see," Ecclestone said. "I even think perhaps, in a funny way, Sebastien would be happy as well if he won the title - provided he couldn't.
"I think Mark will be the guy who will threaten him if anybody. The last time I spoke to him about it … he's really motivated now. I think he realises. I said to him, 'Sebastien is quick. You've got to be quicker. Keep your head down and don't make mistakes you could manage to get the job done'."