SINGAPORE, Sept 22, 2012 (AFP) - Singapore announced a five-year extension for its spectacular night-time Formula One grand prix on Saturday following months of hard bargaining for cheaper fees.
No price-tag for the new deal to 2017 was revealed, but Formula One commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone said repeatedly that the Singapore government had proven tough negotiators.
"It was difficult for me to negotiate," said Ecclestone, sitting next to Singapore trade and industry minister S. Iswaran for the announcement ahead of Sunday's grand prix.
"He's not easy to deal with and I can't understand why he was complaining about us using the streets and wearing out the streets," he joked. "But we eventually got there and I'm very, very happy. We're all here for another five years."
Singapore held Formula One's first night race in 2008, after signing a five-year deal, and the race has rapidly established itself as a highlight of the season.
In one of the sport's most striking settings, the street circuit snakes through the shimmering skyscrapers along the harbourside of the wealthy Asian financial hub.
Singapore is also the planned venue of an initial public offering for Formula One shares, although the launch has been blown off-course by financial turmoil in Europe.
But the city-state is also one of several grand prix hosts to complain about the high race fees it pays to Formula One. When pressed by journalists on whether Singapore had won a cheaper deal, Ecclestone was coy.
"I always believe these questions shouldn't be asked. A gentleman should never speak about money and last night," he said.
Ecclestone added: "Let me tell you how serious the minister is: you'll be paying for your seat on the way out."
The Singapore race, one of seven held in the Asia-Pacific region this year, has been watched by more than 360 million TV viewers, according to government figures, and won universal praise from teams and drivers this week.
"This is the fifth Singapore Grand Prix and it's already a great grand prix, great atmosphere, great city," McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said earlier on Saturday.
According to Justin Harper, market strategist for IG Markets Singapore, Singapore would have had a strong case to negotiate more favourable terms.
"For the last five years Singapore has proved itself to be a success and it has also helped F1 to be put on the map... it has given Singapore more weight to negotiate on its own terms," Harper said.
This week, Iswaran said the race has attracted more than 150,000 visitors spending over Sg$560 million ($456.8 million) in the past four years.
However, the race has grated with some locals as the city's financial district is sealed off for the weekend, causing transport difficulties and a loss of trade for certain shopkeepers.
Some critics baulk at the event's cost, put at Sg$150 million ($122.32 million) per race, with the government directly covering 60 percent of the bill.
Formula One's hefty race fees have long been a problem for hosts. In 2008, Chinese Grand Prix organisers told AFP they were prepared to walk away from Formula One, before later extending their deal.
Korean Grand Prix organisers have been asking for better terms for months, and the Australian Grand Prix has also been the subject of controversy with estimates that it costs local taxpayers Aus$50 million ($52.5 million) to stage.
Last year, officials behind the inaugural Indian Grand Prix told AFP it would take them four years to break even, leaving them only one year on their current contract to make a profit.