In a surprise admission, Bernie Ecclestone has revealed that the Australian Grand Prix could be moved away from Melbourne if they don't consider switching to a night race once their contract expires in 2010.

Australia has been a popular home for Formula 1 over the years, with Albert Park hosting the traditional season opener every year, with exception to 2006, since it replaced Adelaide on the calendar back in 1996.

However, with several new venues determined to win a place on the calendar now, Ecclestone has admitted to Australian national newspaper, the Sunday Herald Sun, that Albert Park will have to make a compelling argument to maintain his position

For Ecclestone, this means the race will need to be held at night to maximise European audiences, a concept that has received plenty of attention recently with the preliminary inclusion of the Singapore Grand Prix for 2008.

"When the contract comes up, we have to have a look and see exactly what we will be doing with Melbourne," he said. Unless they (organisers) can come up with something satisfactory, I'm pretty sure we wouldn't be able to continue there.

"I would like to make sure we can watch (the race) in Europe and other parts of the world at a respectable time rather than having to get up at three or four in the morning."

Furthermore, the Australian Grand Prix itself could be under threat regardless of venue if a better Television deal to show other Formula 1 races is not sought, while a reverse in falling attendance numbers is also being demanded.

"Ron is not stupid and he knows exactly what is at stake," Ecclestone added. "It seems that Melbourne tried to get behind F1 and always has done, but the rest of Australia doesn't seem to get behind it."

However, sceptics are thought to believe that holding a night race in Melbourne will not be a success, while the Brack Government has also hit back at Ecclestone's remarks, claiming that negotiations are yet to even start.

"We strongly support the race," said a spokesman for Tourism Minister Tim Holding. "The contract runs until 2010, but we haven't begun negotiating that yet. And a night Grand Prix has never been formally proposed. Ultimately the Victorian Government will decide what is best for Melbourne."

 

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