Formula one should not lose the Australian Grand Prix, FIA president Jean Todt said in Melbourne on Tuesday.
Amid the local debate about the cost of the annual Albert Park event, F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone said recently that his sport "does not need" Australia.
But while in Melbourne for a road safety campaign one week before the F1 circus lands in the southern city for its 2011 opener, Todt appeared at odds with Ecclestone.
"Formula one is not essential," the Frenchman, comparing the sport with road safety, is quoted as saying by the Associated Press.
"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.
"Australia has been doing a great job together with people from (motor racing federation) CAMS. They have put Australia among the best grands prix in the season," added Todt.
"Melbourne is a sensational venue with nice people, and when I arrived yesterday, I was thinking how good Melbourne is for Formula One."