Talks are set to take place about the future of the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne after Victoria tourism minister Louise Asher revealed that she has given the green light for talks to start with Bernie Ecclestone over a new contract.
However, in something of an ominous warning, Asher also insisted that any new deal would have to be value for money for taxpayers, having previously questioned the cost to taxpayers of the current deal.
The current deal for the race covers the 2014 and 2015 events.
"I have asked the chairman of the Grand Prix Corporation, Mr (Ron) Walker, to commence preliminary discussions with Mr Ecclestone over our future contract," Asher was quoted by Sportal.com.au
. "There's no rush on this, obviously, because there's still two events to go and the government will not be signing up anything if it does not represent good value for money for taxpayers.
"I don't think it's the right thing to do by either the Grand Prix, the Grand Prix Corporation, or anybody for me to start putting limits in a public sense on what the government would be prepared to subsidise.
"But generally the driver of all government activity on this will be we will only sign a new contract if it represents good value for money."
While Asher admitted that the race can still be beneficial to the state of Victoria, event CEO Andrew Westacott revealed that financial discussions weren't the only thing that could decide the long term future of the Albert Park race, with increased competition for places on the calendar to also consider.
“Back at the start of the contract there was only one other event in Asia and that was Japan," he said. "Now there's seven events in Asia and we go into Asia in prime time. With a 5pm timeslot, Melbourne is broadcast into Asia on free-to-air at lunchtime and into the European market at breakfast; there's huge competition.
"Bangkok is looking for a street race in the future, so if Melbourne wants to retain a profile internationally, it is competing against these cities, whether it be Singapore, Abu Dhabi or Bangkok and other Asian locations."