Monday, March 17, 2008

Australia F1 night race ruled out

State officials have ruled out staging a night Grand Prix in Australia, despite Bernie Ecclestone saying the future of the race may depend on it.

Formula One boss Ecclestone wants a race under lights to satisfy European television viewers

The current contract ends in 2010 but Victorian state premier John Brumby said the government would do everything possible to keep the race in Melbourne. However, Brumby insisted: "There won't be a night Grand Prix."

Race organisers and the Victorian state government, which gives financial backing, are optimistic they can hold on to the event.

Brumby added: "We will take whatever steps are reasonable and whatever steps are practical to keep the event."

The start time of this season's curtain-raiser in Australia was pushed back to 0430 GMT and could start 90 minutes later at 0600 GMT in 2009.

But Ecclestone is seemingly unimpressed with the compromise.

"That's not what we're looking for. It needs to be a night race," he stated.

"It would be nice if the race was on at midday or 2pm for European audiences but I guess that would mean it starting in the middle of the night in Australia.

"Obviously, the later it is in Europe the better as far as I am concerned. I suppose it is easier getting up at 6am than 3am, so perhaps that's something."

Formula One newcomer Singapore will stage the first night grand prix this season in September but Australian organisers maintain that racing under lights at the temporary track at Albert Park is not viable.

Australian Grand Prix Corporation chairman Ron Walker said: "We've got 300 hectares of land here.
"It's just not lighting the track, it's lighting the whole park to protect our patrons."

Brumby said that the prospect of holding a race down under at 10am on a Sunday - Saturday night in Europe - has also been raised.

But he feels Asian television audiences are increasing and could overtake Europe as the biggest Formula One spectator market in the future.

"I think there are going to be a lot of viewers in our time zone," he said.

"On Sunday the race went into Europe early in the morning. We will look at other times but there won't be a night grand prix and I don't think we need to hold a night grand prix."

The Melbourne race is also losing money. The 2007 event cost Australian taxpayers 35m Australian dollars (£16m) and this year's grand prix is expected to total A$40m (£18m).