Formula one should not lose the Australian Grand Prix, FIA president Jean Todt said in Melbourne on Tuesday.
With an annual local debate re-surfacing about the cost of the Albert Park event, F1 Chief Executive Bernie Ecclestone said recently that his sport "does not need" Australia.
But while in Melbourne for a road safety campaign one week before the F1 circus lands in the southern city for its 2011 opener, Todt appeared at odds with Ecclestone.
"Formula One is not essential," the Frenchman, comparing the sport with road safety, is quoted as saying by the Associated Press.
"It is a sport and it is important, and if Formula One does exist I think it is important to have one race in Australia because Australia is among the biggest nations in the world.
"Australia has been doing a great job together with people from (motor racing federation) CAMS. They have put Australia among the best grands prix in the season," added Todt.
"Melbourne is a sensational venue with nice people, and when I arrived yesterday, I was thinking how good Melbourne is for Formula One."
Horner Tips Hamilton To Knock At Red Bull
Christian Horner has refused to rule out signing McLaren's Lewis Hamilton.
"Any driver-manager doing his job at the moment has been banging on the door," said the Red Bull team boss, on the day Hamilton announced his career will be handled from now by entertainment manager Simon Fuller.
"Lewis is a great driver," Horner is quoted by the Telegraph. "You would think he's not going to be happy having another barren year."
Horner's comments might be regarded as mischief-making, with McLaren's 2011 car currently off the pace of the field-leading Red Bull and Ferrari.
But Hamilton also had a poor season in 2009 as reigning world champion, while last season the McLaren was not quite a match for the best cars.
Horner suggested it is 26-year-old Hamilton who will therefore be doing the knocking.
"That is not to say we are looking for him to come to our team. We are very happy with the two drivers we have. That is more of a question you would need to put to Lewis," he added.
Horner insisted Red Bull could handle a Sebastian Vettel-Hamilton pairing.
"You would certainly envisage it being quite a busy partnership, but you can never rule it out. From my perspective you always want to have the best two drivers," he said.
For now, Hamilton says he is happy at McLaren, playing down reports he is disillusioned before even racing the MP4-26.
"It's a long, long year and I have no doubts that we can compete with these guys," he said.
Alguersuari Chasing Webber's 2012 Red Bull Seat
Jaime Alguersuari has admitted to wanting to move to Red Bull next year after Mark Webber's contract expires.
On Monday, Red Bull announced it has signed up Sebastian Vettel, Adrian Newey and 50 other crucial team figures through 2014, but not Australian Webber whose deal runs out at the end of this season.
Meanwhile at Red Bull's junior team Toro Rosso, drivers Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi are set to fight for both survival and stardom in 2011, with one expected to get the call to replace Webber and the other to be replaced by hotshoe Daniel Ricciardo.
Asked if the currently vacant 2012 seat at Red Bull is his goal, Alguersuari told El Mundo: "Of course that's the first target.
"That is clear, very clear. Having a great car is the most important thing and Red Bull's is the best," he added.
McLaren 'Better Than They Look' For 2011: Alonso
Fernando Alonso does not think his former team McLaren is set to endure a season in the midfield in 2011.
When asked by El Pais newspaper about the British squad's apparently uncompetitive MP4-26 car, the Ferrari driver answered: "They're better than they look.
"Winter testing doesn't explain anything. They say themselves that they are expecting a little more, so perhaps they will be at a similar level to the best (in Australia) and then go on ahead.
"When we get there, we'll see. McLaren are not going to be fighting for tenth place, but rather (for) the podium," added Alonso.
Meanwhile, when asked about F1 drivers' complaints about the extreme degradation of the Pirelli tyres, Alonso said his main concern is the effect on braking.
"Before (with Bridgestone), you would come to the end of the straight and step on the brake with all your strength. Now if you do that, you block the wheels, especially the rears.
"The traction is also worse. Before you would step on the accelerator quickly out of a corner, but now it's more measured. You have to be much more sensitive," he explained.