February 10, 2008 12:00am
FORMULA One chief Bernie Ecclestone has slammed the door on Melbourne's chances of retaining the Grand Prix.
Days after telling the Sunday Herald Sun the race was in doubt, Mr Ecclestone said there was no chance it would be in Melbourne after 2010.
The Brumby Government confirmed it would not run the Albert Park event at night, something Mr Ecclestone says is non-negotiable.
He said the Government's stance would effectively end 25 years of the event in Australia. But Australian F1 star Mark Webber urged the Brumby Government to embrace a night Grand Prix to save the Melbourne event.
Webber said the Grand Prix was crucial to Melbourne's international reputation, but "you can't constantly keep having the same toys in the sand pit".
"If it is an ultimatum of being"We should try to make night work . . . it could be exactly what the event needs -- who knows?" Webber said.
If Melbourne loses the Grand Prix, Australia will be without F1 exposure for the first time since 1985.
Mr Ecclestone said if the event was to continue in Melbourne beyond 2010 it had to be at night
"I think it would be good for the public, good for the restaurants, good for everything. There is no downside to it," he said.
Government spokesman George Svigos reiterated yesterday that a night race would not happen.
"The Government's position is that there will not be a night race," he said.
Mr Svigos said Premier John Brumby had made it clear negotiations for the Grand Prix would be staged this year.
"The Government believes it is a good event for Melbourne. We fully support the Grand Prix," he said.
But Mr Ecclestone said a daylight Melbourne race was not up for discussion.
"I'm sure Melbourne will survive without a Grand Prix," he said. "It seems it would be better without it."
He again poured cold water on efforts by NSW to steal Melbourne's thunder.
"There is nothing in Sydney -- they haven't even got a circuit," he said.
The Grand Prix lost Victorians almost $35 million last year. Melbourne Grand Prix chairman Ron Walker has predicted this year's race will lose about $40 million.
Grand Prix sources said the licensing fee for the Australian event was about $40 million -- more than enough to make the Melbourne Grand Prix profitable if it were waived.
Mr Ecclestone said if it were not "good value, they shouldn't continue with it".