The Australian Grand Prix's place on next year's Formula 1 calendar is under threat because of a dispute over fees with CAMS, the country's motorsports governing body.
CAMS has been asked by Australian Grand Prix promoters to lower the fees it charges to help organize the Melbourne race – believed to be around $800,000 – but has so far refused to do so. Amid a stand-off between the two parties, CAMS has threatened to lodge a request with the FIA that the event be dropped from the 2011 schedule if the dispute is not settled before Nov. 19.
Australian Grand Prix chief Ron Walker flew into Abu Dhabi on Thursday for talks with Bernie Ecclestone about the situation, but said he was confident that the matter could be sorted.
"CAMS is threatening us, using the FIA as a big stick, to comply with the request by Nov. 19 or they will apply to have us de-registered off the calendar for next year," Walker said. "What we are saying is that CAMS has got to comply with all the other suppliers of services, and that is what CAMS are – they are a supplier of services. So under a process they have to tender their price. We have told them that they have got to reduce their price by a certain amount and they have said 'No, we are not a for-profit organization', even though there are 1,500 volunteers.
"They are a monopoly, and the government will not stand for monopolies. Most countries will not have monopolies anymore and neither will the competitions' commission in Brussels. They are opening a Pandora's box in a big way by doing this."
When asked if he was worried that the matter would not be resolved and the event dropped from the 2011 calendar, Walker said: "No, I am not worried, it won't happen. I know it is going to be resolved because there are powers that be, such as Mr. [Jean] Todt and Mr. [Bernie] Ecclestone who are sure it will be resolved in an amicable way. But it is a pity it has gone this far.
"Now Mr. Ecclestone has stepped in, saying, 'I have a contract with the government of Victoria for five years; it is a very concrete contract and I will not allow CAMS to take us off the calendar.'"
Walker said one way for the event to be secured would be to find some alternative organizer, perhaps using officials from Britain or Abu Dhabi.
"The organizers at Silverstone would be very happy to organize Melbourne, the organizer of Abu Dhabi could organize it," he said. "There are plenty of organizers that would be delighted to come down under and be approved by the FIA.
"We believe we are being overcharged for the services being provided, and you can't be holier than thou to say: 'It is my service, you have to pay for it.'"