Can future of Aussie GP be secured?

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The current contract on Formula One’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne’s Albert Park runs through the 2015 season, but talks toward making the event a long-term stop on the F1 calendar may be getting underway soon.

Melbourne’s Herald Sun reports that Denis Napthine, the new premier of the state of Victoria, is ready to speak with Formula One officials about a new deal for the race. According to his spokesman, Napthine will meet with said officials during the lead-up to the Grand Prix.

This comes on the heels of Formula One CEO Bernie Ecclestone telling the Herald Sun late last month that he wanted to keep Melbourne on the schedule for another 50 years.

“We get proposals from other parts, but we’re happy in Melbourne,” he told the Herald Sun’s Peter Rolfe in a Feb. 27 article. “Everybody loves Australia and loves Australian people, and it’s good to be there…and Melbourne, in itself, is a nice place.”

The race is a well-regarded part of the calendar, but a very costly one as well; the price tag for last year’s Aussie GP broke the $50 million mark. With that said, the race has certainly raised Melbourne’s global stature — and at least some believe that it has been worth the cost.

“You can, of course, argue that $57 million last year and likely rising again this year is not the best use of public money. But the greater argument is that it is an important and cost-effective investment in maintaining Melbourne’s international brand,” wrote Mark Fogarty of Melbourne’s The Age on Feb. 24.

“Forget claims of direct economic benefits derived from spending by visitors. What the Grand Prix at Albert Park does is promote Melbourne to the world, further reinforcing its visibility and status as a sporting and cultural [center].”

F1 2017 driver review: Nico Hulkenberg

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Nico Hulkenberg

Team: Renault
Car No.: 27
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P6 (Spain, Great Britain, Belgium, Abu Dhabi)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 43
Championship Position: 10th

Expectations were hard to peg for Renault heading into its second full season back in F1 with a factory team, but Nico Hulkenberg was surely expected to be the man spearheading its charge.

With teammate Jolyon Palmer severely underperforming, Hulkenberg did exactly that, bringing home all but 14 of the team’s points in the final standings. However, consistency was never something he truly found.

Many of Renault’s issues were down to reliability issues, sidelining Hulkenberg for six races – four coming in a five-race stint from Singapore to Mexico – yet he only scored points in consecutive races on three occasions.

When Hulkenberg and Renault were on form, they proved to be a potent combination, often topping the midfield fight and even looking faster than Force India come the end of the season. His run to sixth at the final race in Abu Dhabi was crucial for the constructors’ championship as Renault jumped Toro Rosso, securing an extra slice of prize money in the process.

But for a driver who was so often tipped as being a future star in F1, Hulkenberg still has a lot to prove. Renault is set to offer a good platform for the German moving forward with factory support, yet if he cannot beat new teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. through 2018, concerns will surely be raised.

Season High: Charging to sixth in Abu Dhabi despite a penalty.

Season Low: A tough run to 16th in Malaysia.