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F1 row escalates as Aussies threaten to ditch GP

AUSTRALIA'S Formula One chief has threatened to scrap the Melbourne Grand Prix if leading teams are not on the grid, and called on FIA head Max Mosley to stand down amid a lingering threat of a breakaway series.

Eight FOTA (Formula One Teams Association) teams, including Ferrari, have not ruled out spurning the FIA to form their own championship, despite reaching a breakthrough deal in Paris last month.

"If the disunity continues Melbourne will seriously consider its position on continuing with Formula One," Australian Grand Prix Corporation chairman Ron Walker said.

"You can just imagine if the likes of (Roger) Federer and other major players didn't turn up to the Australian Open in January or if some of the best horses didn't come to the Melbourne Cup. It's the same scenario, the superstars sell the tickets and if you don't have the superstars then ticket sales sag."

The Australian Formula One Grand Prix, which is partly underwritten by the state's government, lost a record A$40 million (US$31 million) in 2008, after losing A$35 million in the previous year, sparking criticism that it has become too big a burden on tax-payers.

Victoria state premier John Brumby backed Walker's comments.

"I want value for money for Victorian tax-payers and that means you want all of the competitors, you want all of the race teams... We won't be paying for half an event, simple as that," Brumby told reporters.

The Paris deal, landed after the FIA agreed to bow to teams' demands to scrap a push by Mosley to introduce budget caps in the sport, has since appeared fragile. Technical directors of the eight FOTA teams on Wednesday walked out of a meeting to agree to rule changes for 2010 after being told they could only participate as observers.

The walkout followed a threat by Mosley to rip up the deal unless FOTA head and Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo apologized for likening him to a dictator.

Walker laid blame for the crisis at the feet of the 69-year-old Briton.

"In my view Mr Mosley should walk away from the sport with dignity rather than slowly strangle to death the great brand of Formula One," Mr Walker said. "The sport needs fresh and dynamic leadership more than ever before to lead F1 into a new era of motor racing.


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