FIA president Jean Todt said today that Australia should be permanently retained on the Formula One circuit.
Todt, in Melbourne as part of a global road safety campaign, said Australia should always host an annual F1 race.
The Frenchman's view appears to be at odds with those of F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone, who said recently that F1 "does not need" the Australian race as debate about its value to its host state of Victoria emerged once again. Todt was Ferrari F1 team principal for 15 years until 2007, then Ferrari CEO before being appointed to head motorsport's world governing body, the FIA, in 2009.
Todt was keen to promote road safety rather than motorsport in the Australian city, but said as long as F1 continued, the Australian Grand Prix should be a part of the calendar.
"Formula One is not essential (compared to road safety). It is a sport and it is important, and if Formula One does exist I think it is important to have one race in Australia because Australia is among the biggest nations in the world," Todt said.
"Australia has been doing a great job together with people from CAMS (The Confederation of Australian Motorsport)," he added. "They have put Australia among the best grands prix in the season."
Todt also voiced his support for Melbourne as Australia's GP venue.
"Melbourne is a sensational venue with nice people, and when I arrived yesterday, I was thinking how good Melbourne is for Formula One."