Melbourne will lose the Grand Prix if Victoria’s state government cuts its cash handout to the event, Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone warned late Wednesday.
In an extraordinary threat issued just two weeks before this year’s event, Ecclestone said unless taxpayers kept pouring at least AU$55 million (US$59 million) a year into the race, it would be taken from Australia.
"If we were having a divorce from our friends in Melbourne, we would probably be walking away from Australia," Ecclestone said.
Ecclestone said the Albert Park event was the least viable of all grands prix around the world, but he would consider cutting his fee — which is reportedly about $25 million — for the right to host the event if a night race was considered.
"We would have a look. Maybe we could help subsidize that a little bit," Ecclestone said.
A spokeswoman for the state’s Premier Ted Baillieu said the government was attempting to limit costs associated with the race and would ensure the event was "value for money."
The current contract expires in 2015, and negotiations between Ecclestone and the Baillieu government are expected to begin next year.