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F1 NEWS 

Albert Park to keep Australian GP

Australian Grand Prix start 2011The Australian Grand Prix will remain at Albert Park as long as the event is a part of the calendar, local officials said on Monday as they ruled out talk of a switch to nearby Avalon.

The future of the race has been the subject of intense speculation, and grand prix chairman Ron Walker said earlier this year that a move to Avalon could be considered if the finances made sense.

During a parliamentary budget hearing in Melbourne on Monday, however, major events minister Louise Asher said that a switch to Avalon had now been dismissed - because of the 200 million cost it would take to stage the race there.

"The grand prix is going to stay at Albert Park," Asher was quoted as saying by local media.

"One of the reasons the branding of Melbourne has been so successful is that the grand prix is at Albert Park."

The high cost of the Melbourne event to taxpayers remains a major talking point in Australia, and Asher suggested that Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone would face tough negotiations when it comes to discussing a new deal beyond 2015.

"When we come to negotiate we will play hardball," Asher added. "I think taxpayers could get a better deal if the contract had less in it for my good friend Mr Ecclestone and more in it for Victorian taxpayers.

"I would love nothing more to have the grand prix stay on a contract that was fabulous value for taxpayers - the issue is whether I can deliver that."

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