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Formula One to talk to NY mayor about Staten Island

Ecclestone would meet New York city mayor Michael Bloomberg, said Australian Grand Prix Corporation (AGPC) chairman Ron Walker, denying the trip was a snub to the Melbourne race at Albert Park Sunday.

"It doesn't mean to say Bernie's lost interest (in Melbourne)," Walker told local media. "It's about business in New York. Mayor Bloomberg is pretty keen to get a race at Staten Island."

Soaring costs to taxpayers have sparked heated debate about the future of the race in Melbourne and prominent local politicians have urged authorities to ditch it once the city's hosting contract expires in 2015.

Ecclestone last week told local reporters F1 management would "hate" to lose the Australian race, but said he could not force Melbourne to keep it if it were too expensive for the city.

Ecclestone has previously spruiked New York to host an F1 race, but the next U.S. Grand Prix will be held in Austin, the state capital of Texas, in 2012, the first since Indianapolis in 2007, which was won by Briton Lewis Hamilton.

Walker has said Melbourne, which posted a A$49.2 million loss holding the race last year, could lose it after 2015 due to the exorbitant hosting fee paid to Formula One management.

The high cost of setting up and dismantling the street circuit at Albert Park has also been cited as a drain on taxpayers and Walker said the AGPC would talk to the government about building a permanent circuit at Avalon, about 50 km southwest of Melbourne.

A local trucking company that owns land at Avalon, located on the northern fringe of the port city of Geelong, has previously floated building a track there.

Walker said an extension of the Melbourne Grand Prix's current lease would justify the expense of a permanent track.

"Yes, if the government decided to invest in a train line, as we would need public transport there," Walker told autosport.com.

"It would take about three years to build, and the decision would have to be made next year. Or, as part of the new contract from 2015 going forward."

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)