Ecclestone: British GP could still be saved

FORMULA ONE chief Bernie Ecclestone admits next year’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone could still be saved - but he has also warned it may already be too late.

Ecclestone, who dropped the British Grand Prix from his provisional 2005 schedule after Silverstone’s owners failed to meet his financial demands, hinted last night there may still be hope of salvaging the event.

He explained that because the calendar of 17 races has already been submitted to the world governing body the FIA, the only way the grand prix could be saved for 2005 would be if the teams agreed to use Silverstone for an additional 18th race.

But speaking to BBC Radio Five Live, the F1 supremo made it clear he thinks the future of the Northamptonshire circuit looks bleak.

The best hope, it appears, for Silverstone is that the tradition and prestige of the event tugs at the heart-strings of team bosses.

“It’s a bit late because there are 17 races on the calendar, 17 contracts in place on the 30th (of September) to say to the FIA ‘these are on the calendar’,” he said.

He added: “I suppose if they come up with what we propose, and the teams decide to run 18 races, then we could probably get the FIA to agree with that.”

After the British government was criticised by the British Racing Drivers Club - who own the track - for not bridging the financial gap needed to save the event, Ecclestone defended ministers.

“It’s not up to the government to do these things. It should be a commercial thing for the promoter and us really. It’s not really a government thing.

Ecclestone confirmed he offered the BRDC a “joint venture” which was rejected by the organisation.

Ecclestone, who had been quoted as describing the BRDC as a “gentleman’s club”, said: “Well that’s what it is. They are not in business; they inherited the land, free of charge. Really they are landlords, not business people who should be running anything really.”

Ecclestone’s remarks followed the regrets voiced by former British Grand Prix winner Johnny Herbert at the likely axing of next year’s race.

The prospect of British drivers having no home race for the first time in world championship history is a situation 1995 Silverstone hero Herbert sees as a sad loss.

The Essex-born racer fears the chance to prevail on home soil could now be denied the likes of Anthony Davidson and Gary Paffett, who are looking for their big break into Formula One.

Herbert told the Press Association: “It will be a bit weird for new British drivers if they come into Formula One and don’t have a home grand prix. They won’t miss it, because it won’t be there for them to enjoy.

“It will be strange for someone like Anthony Davidson - who has tested there for a few years, done loads of miles there and even experienced it as BAR’s third driver this year.

“It’s a privilege to race in front of those fans because there is always a fantastic atmosphere.

“I don’t think it makes you go any quicker but it still feels good to have thousands of your home fans cheering you on. There really is only the tifosi at Monza that compares to it.”

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