Australia rules out night race
Race organisers at loggerheads with Ecclestone
The long-term future of the Australian Grand Prix is in doubt after organisers refused to bow to the wishes of Bernie Ecclestone and stage a night race.
Formula One's commercial rights controller wants to introduce night races in Australia and Asia to cater for the lucrative European television market.
But the Australian Grand Prix Corporation's CEO Drew Ward says that moving the start time of the grand prix back to 3.30pm ought to be enough to appease Ecclestone.
He told autosport.com: "In the present circumstances, the Victorian Government has ruled out a night race. What we have done this year is changed the F1 race time to later on the Sunday afternoon.
"It is a 3.30pm race start, which will tie in a little better with the broadcast timing to the European timezone. It would not surprise me if we looked at that again for 2009.
"We think it is a sensible compromise, we think it works on both sides - it works for the broadcast audience and it works for the spectator attending the event. We think it is a launch pad for doing other things in the future."
Ward played down Ecclestone's threats and said that race organisers are focused on fulfilling their existing contract.
He added: "Frankly at the moment that is the least of my concerns. We are very much focused on the events that are in front of us.
"We know that regardless of what happens beyond 2010, we have got a great event coming up in a week's time.
"There is also 2009, and 2010. And whatever happens beyond 2010 will sort itself out."
But Ecclestone has refused to budge and told the Mail on Sunday: "The only way the race could stay in Melbourne, or anywhere else in Australia, is if it is staged during the night so that the public in Europe can watch it.
"At the moment, it is ridiculous that people are asked not to sleep in order to see it live. That can't carry on."
Australia hosts the first race of the 2008 F1 season next Sunday in Melbourne.