Australian Grand Prix boss Ron Walker fears Bernie Ecclestone will follow through on his threat to remove the event from the calendar in the next few years following recent criticisms about the cost of the race.
Ecclestone was at the center of a public dispute with Melbourne Mayor Robert Doyle recently, amid questions about whether the high cost of the race brought good value to Melbourne. In the wake of those remarks, Ecclestone said that if Melbourne officials wanted to cancel the contract before it expires in 2015 he would be ready to talk.
Walker, who is a close friend of Ecclestone, said on Friday that he believed F1's commercial boss had been insulted by the mayor's remarks.
"I think he feels let down that a mayor of a capital city for the first time in 40-odd years would question the value of an F1 race," Walker told the Herald Sun newspaper. "A race that is equal in value to a World Cup or Olympic Games. He will make up his mind in 2014...there's no shortage of people who want a race."
With a number of countries having expressed interest in hosting F1 races, Walker said that being aggressive against Ecclestone would likely only result in the event being dropped.
"He was quite offended by those remarks and even though he has very good friends here, and is very proud of Melbourne attendances, he has many other options," he explained. "He doesn't want people to insult the brand."