Late start won't save GP, says Ecclestone

Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone has dismissed a proposal by Australian Grand Prix organisers for the race to start later next year in the hope of keeping it on the calendar beyond 2010

Late start won't save GP, says Ecclestone

"It needs to be a night race," he told the Age newspaper on Wednesday. "It doesn't help a lot," he added of the proposal to move the start to 5:00 pm local (6:00 am GMT) next year. "That's not really what we are looking for.

"It would be nice if the race was on at midday or 2:00 pm for European audiences, but I guess that would mean it starting in the middle of the night in Australia."

Organisers have already pushed back the start of Sunday's season-opening Grand Prix in Melbourne from 2:00 pm local (3:00 am GMT) to 3:30 pm (4:30 am GMT).

Singapore will make its debut this season as the sport's first night race but Victoria state authorities have ruled out going down that route when the current contract expires in 2010.

"I've made it absolutely clear that there will be no night Grand Prix race in Melbourne. We don't support it now, we don't support it post-2010. I can't be more unequivocal than that," tourism and major events minister Tim Holding told the newspaper.

The letters page gave an indication of local feeling at a time of increasing concern about climate change and global warming.

"Please, (Victoria premier) John Brumby, let him (Ecclestone) take the race. In fact, assist him to go," wrote one reader.

"Back in reality, we humble citizens are turning off lights and putting in energy-saving globes, while this man insists that we burn extra tonnes of polluting brown coal to generate the power so that his Grand Prix can be seen by more people overseas."

Red Bull's Mark Webber, Australia's only Formula One driver, offered an alternative perspective.

"I think we should continue to fight pretty hard to keep it," he said. "The nation needs to realise that you can't just survive on cricket and AFL.

"We need to have the best people in the world competing here in sporting events and the Grand Prix does do that."

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