Minister says gov’t to be tough in next Aus GP talks image

( The state Victorian government wants to keep the Australian grand prix beyond 2015 but only with new contract terms.

That is the latest development in the saga surrounding Melbourne’s future on the F1 calendar, after powerbrokers Jean Todt and Bernie Ecclestone this week said Australia is important to the sport.

But there is a long-running debate in Victoria about the rising cost of the annual event to taxpayers, and it was the previous government who negotiated the current deal that is not set to expire until 2015.

“There’s no doubt about it that the Victorian government would want to secure the grand prix,” major events minister Louise Asher told Reuters.

“It’s just that we’re not going to be bunnies in contractual negotiations.”

F1 commerical supremo Bernie Ecclestone has told Australian media that he would hate to lose the race.

“Australia is as important to us as Monaco,” Ecclestone said. “It’s part of the world championship and has been for an awful long time. We’d hate to think that we’re going to lose Australia.

This year’s Australia Grand Prix takes place on March 27, restored to its traditional spot at the start of the season after the Bahrain race was called off due to unrest in the Gulf kingdom.