2011 opener could be Melbourne's last blast - Ecclestone

By on Sunday, March 20, 2011

Mar.20 (GMM) After the niceties of last week, Bernie Ecclestone has now hinted Australia might be dropped from the F1 calendar as soon as next year.

The Melbourne race has a contract through 2015, but F1's chief executive has latched onto a rising local rhetoric about the escalating cost of the annual event to Victorian state taxpayers.

Ecclestone, 80, revealed to the UK Express newspaper that next Sunday's 2011 season opener could be the last blast at Albert Park.

Despite saying last week that Australia is important to F1, he now says the current calendar is stretched to the limit and one or two races therefore need to be dropped.

"We are probably going to have to drop two races to fit in Austin and Russia," said Ecclestone, referring to the 2012 calendar.

"Australia are saying they don't want a race. If they want to go, they can go and the next one (to go) is maybe one of the races in Spain," he added.

"We are alternating in Germany so maybe that's what we will do in Spain," said the British billionaire.

Australian Grand Prix Corporation chairman Ron Walker acknowledged the risk that the cost-conscious Victorian government might pull the plug.

"We could be priced out of the market in 2015, and that's what the government is saying," he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

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