Mike Stevens | Mar 24, 2011

The Victorian government has played down the prospect of the under-fire Australian Grand Prix moving to a permanent circuit outside Melbourne.

As speculation continues about the race's future beyond its 2015 contract, Australian Grand Prix Corporation Chairman Ron Walker revisited plans for a purpose-built facility at Avalon, an airport 50 kilometres south of the city.

Bernie Ecclestone said recently he regretted not pushing organisers to build such a venue ten years ago, before the cost to taxpayers of hosting the race on the temporary Albert Park layout became such an issue.

"Now that Mr Ecclestone has raised the issue again, maybe we might go to Avalon and look at the plans," Walker said.

But Tourism Minister Louise Asher said those plans are too expensive.

"I am told that a purpose-built track would cost around $300 million, and that's not $300 million that the government has got," she told The Age.

"Part of the reason for securing the GP was the city location, and that's part of the reason it is here," she added.

David Coulthard on Wednesday admitted he is disappointed about the ongoing saga surrounding the Australian Grand Prix and its future.

"Every time I come down here we see all the anti-Grand Prix debate, and we don't get that anywhere else in the world," he told SEN radio.

(GMM)

 

Staten Island Plays Down F1 Race Rumours

Officials in the New York borough Staten Island have played down claims the location could be the scene of a Formula One race.

It emerged this week that Bernie Ecclestone called off his scheduled visit to Melbourne for the 2011 season opener in order to meet in New York with mayor Michael Bloomberg.

"We've heard nothing about the proposal," a spokesman for Staten Island councilman Vincent Ignizio told the Austin American-Statesman.

Chief of staff Joe Borelli added: "Our road transportation is lacking. We have choking points. There are four ways to get in and out of Staten Island and the bridges are not that big."

Seven years ago, NASCAR track management International Speedway Corporation bought land on Staten Island but it is now trying to sell it.

"We did oppose NASCAR. The majority of people were against it," confirmed Borelli.

He said the reason for opposing motor racing is that Staten Island, as one of the five boroughs of New York City, would not collect the money generated by the races.

"It might be different if we were a city," said Borelli.

A spokesman for another island councilman James Oddo added: "In this economic climate I can only see them (race promoters) having more issues."

(GMM)

 

Button Tells Hamilton To Stick With McLaren

Jenson Button has advised Lewis Hamilton to stick with McLaren in the long term rather than risk "a surprise" by moving elsewhere.

With McLaren's 2011 car not expected to challenge for victory in Australia this weekend, it has been rumoured that Briton Hamilton might look to switch to Red Bull at the expiry of his contract late next year.

But countryman Button, Hamilton's current teammate and five years his senior, told British reporters: "Lewis is going to be racing in Formula One for a lot longer than I am.

"It's his decision but I think he feels very much at home within this team and it might be a surprise going somewhere else.

"It would be a very different environment for him, but I don't think he's thinking like that (about leaving McLaren)," added Button, who won the title in 2009, when Hamilton was the reigning champion.

Button, 31, said he is also looking at a future with Woking-based McLaren.

"I feel very at home here but I haven't thought about that far into the future," he insisted.

"I'm racing with one of the best teams in the world. This has to be the best place to be to fight for a world championship.

"I haven't doubted that. We all go through difficult times and this winter hasn't been perfect for us. But when times are tough people always say it makes you stronger," said Button.

(GMM)

 

Todt Tells Bernie To Forget Noise And Think Green

Jean Todt has reportedly dismissed Bernie Ecclestone's fears about Formula One losing its roar in 2013.

F1 chief executive Ecclestone revealed recently he is "at loggerheads" with the FIA president about the 1.6 litre, four-cyclinder turbo engine plans championed by Todt.

Todt, however, said it is important to accept the change due to F1 needing to be greener.

"Already I hear about the noise, but that's evolution," he is quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald.

"Two decades ago, you had a 12-cylinder engine, now you have only 2.4 litre V8 ... I think it's very important that F1, being the pinnacle of motor racing, takes on board the evolution of society," insisted Todt.

"It will be definitely greener, with the introduction of more technologies in the future."

(GMM)

 

Alonso Says 'Not Many' Faster Than Massa

Fernando Alonso neatly sidestepped the issue when asked if he would welcome Sebastian Vettel as a new Ferrari teammate.

Even though Vettel has now signed to stay at Red Bull for the next four seasons, the reigning world champion has admitted he would like to switch to Ferrari one day.

At famous Italian marque Ferrari, Felipe Massa had a difficult 2010 season and is expected to drive for his career this year.

Asked if he would object to having Vettel alongside him at Ferrari, Spaniard Alonso told Welt newspaper: "I have never thought about it.

"In principle I drive the same against any teammate and right now it's Felipe."

Asked if he respects his current Brazilian teammate, Alonso told the German newspaper: "Felipe is a great challenger for me. I don't think there are many drivers who are faster than him.

"After all, when he crossed the line in Brazil in 2008, he was the world champion for a few seconds, so he has to prove to no one how fast and talented he is."

However, Massa had a poor season in 2010, but Ferrari's technical director Aldo Costa told Corriere dello Sport that doesn't mean he is now the number two.

Asked if the 29-year-old can keep up with Alonso in 2011, Costa answered: "I hope so, because we need two strong drivers.

"But we are only going to find out now that the races are starting," he added.

(GMM)

Follow Mike Stevens on Google+