Ecclestone confident of new deal to keep Aussie GP in Melbourne

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F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has told Australia’s Herald Sun newspaper that a new contract to keep Formula One’s season opening race – the Australian Grand Prix – at its current home in Melbourne is close to being completed. The race has been held in the city’s Albert Park since the 1996 season.

When asked if a contract extension would soon be signed, Ecclestone told the Aussie publication: “Yes. Sure, sure, sure. As soon as we get the ­lawyers sorted.” The current contract runs through the 2015 season.

Ecclestone has long favored keeping the Australian round of his World Championship in Melbourne, mentioning last year that he wanted to have the city on the schedule for another 50 years.

The price tag for the event has gone north of $50 million, however, keeping the race centered in public debate over its worth.

And while the race’s chairman, Ron Walker, is confident that Albert Park will host the race through at least 2020, the local government wants those operating costs to be reduced by a noticeable margin.

For his part, Ecclestone believes that the money aspect has been taken care of.

“I think that’s all been sorted,” he said. “It’s just the bits and pieces. [A new deal] will happen…Ron and I know what we’re doing, which is important and then we get the rest of it all together.”

He added his hope that a new deal would be signed before this year’s season opener, saying “there is no reason why it shouldn’t be.”

Valtteri Bottas fastest in Friday F1 practices for Russian Grand Prix

F1 Sochi Valtteri Bottas
Dan Mullan/Getty Images
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SOCHI, Russia — Valtteri Bottas paced both F1 practices Friday for the Russian Grand Prix on Friday as Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton was slowed by damaged tires in the first session.

Bottas turned a fast lap of 1 minute, 33.519 seconds in the second session that bettered Hamilton’s 1:33.786.

Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo was more than a second behind Bottas in third at 1:34.577, followed by the McLaren Racing duo of Carlos Sainz Jr. (1:34.723) and Lando Norris (1:34.847).

In the first F1 session at Sochi, Valtteri Bottas set the pace with a time of 1 minute, 34.923 seconds, beating Ricciardo by half a second. Max Verstappen was third quickest in his Red Bull, a further 0.147 back.

Hamilton could only manage 19th fastest after locking up his tires and leaving them with a flat spot. Ferrari again struggled to find pace with Sebastian Vettel ninth and Charles Leclerc 11th.

HISTORY IN SIGHTLewis Hamilton aims to tie Michael Schumacher’s record

The first session was briefly red-flagged when Nicholas Latifi crashed his Williams. Carlos Sainz Jr. spun his McLaren backward into a barrier and broke off his rear wing.

Verstappen spun during the second session but avoided damage to his car.