The man in charge of the Australian Grand Prix is optimistic that it will remain on the F1 calendar beyond its current term, despite being the subject of speculation in recent years.

Although Ron Walker admits there are still what he terms 'sticking points' in talks to renew the race's deal, he expects it to be a part of the F1 scene for some time to come, hoping that the Victoria state government puts pen to paper on a new five-year deal.

As with several other races on the schedule, Melbourne - a favourite with fans and competitors alike - is looking for a favourable shift in the fee it has to pay to host the grand prix which, with annual escalators, is understood to be approaching $36m this year. With rival races having achieved the same goal, a precedent exists, but F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone remains a difficult man to negotiate with.

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The Australian event is currently in the penultimate season of its current deal and, with operating costs already cut by nearly $7m to an admittedly still substantial $50.7m, Walker has his fingers crossed that an extension to 2020 can be agreed without too may problems.

"I'm as confident of it as I can be,'' the chairman of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation told the Melbourne Age newspaper, ''Negotiations are continuing in a favourable direction, so we'll just see what happens.

"The lawyers are still talking about some minor points. It's a work in progress. It's just taken longer than we thought. I hope the impasse will be resolved soon - hopefully, it will be concluded before this year's race.''

"We think there'll be a meeting of the ways soon. There are just a few sticking points to be resolved, then it goes to the government. The [AGPC] board will make a recommendation to the government, which will weigh up the figures. We won't take it to the government until we're ready. There's no rush as far as we're concerned."