Ron Walker: Bernie Ecclestone 'offended' over Australian GP
Australian Grand Prix chief Ron Walker has warned Melbourne that Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone will not hesitate to kill off their race as the debate over its future rages on.
Ecclestone and Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle have been locked in a public verbal sparring match over the Melbourne event, with Doyle questioning its value to the city and Ecclestone more recently claiming the season "doesn't need" an Australian leg.
Walker, who said he speaks to Ecclestone "almost daily", said Ecclestone had been personally offended by Doyle's comments and that he was certainly not bluffing when he said the sport could abandon Melbourne when the event's contract expires in 2014 or perhaps even sooner.
"I think he feels let down that a mayor of a capital city for the first time in 40 odd years would question the value of an F1 race," Walker told Melbourne's Herald Sun newspaper. "A race that is equal in value to a World Cup or Olympic Games. He will make up his mind in 2014...there's no shortage of people who want a race.
"He was quite offended by those remarks and even though he has very good friends here, and is very proud of Melbourne attendances, he has many other options. He doesn't want people to insult the brand."
Destinations ranging from Warsaw to New York have been touted as possible replacements for the Australian Grand Prix, while representatives from Melbourne satellite city Geelong have put forward their interest if the race was to be relocated a shorter distance.
Ecclestone is expected to fly in for this year's Melbourne Grand Prix and Doyle has said he would be open to having talks with the F1 boss to discuss their viewpoints face to face. But Walker also revealed that Ecclestone, while offended, may have overestimated Doyle's sphere of influence.
"He has dealt with four premiers and three Lord Mayors, but he didn't understand Councilor Doyle represents 100,000 ratepayers compared to [Victorian Premier] Mr. [Ted] Baillieu, who represents almost five million people." ESPNF1