Axing British GP would be disaster says Button

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The Independent Online

Formula One leader Jenson Button has said it would be a disaster if the sport loses the British Grand Prix from its calendar due to a legal dispute between the owners and renters of Donington Park.

The future of the British GP was put in doubt after the owners of Donington - due to host the race from next year onward - started legal action to claim £2.47m in unpaid rent from the company planning to organise the race.

"It would be a disaster for any British driver if there wasn't a grand prix in their home country," Button said today from the Bahrain GP. "It'll be tough not only for the drivers but for all the British fans. I can't see Formula One without a British Grand Prix. It's a tough one and hopefully we'll be able to keep it for the near future."

Donington owners Wheatcroft and Son Ltd. said yesterday that Donington Ventures Leisure, which is owned by businessman Simon Gillett, has not paid rent since last September and should forfeit its lease as a result.

F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone has warned that Donington is the only possible venue for the race, ruling out a return to long-standing British GP site Silverstone should the legal dispute prevent Donington commencing a 10-year hosting contract in 2010.

"It is with great reluctance that we have taken this decision," Kevin Wheatcroft said. "Despite receiving numerous reassurances over a number of months, they have consistently failed to meet their financial obligations under the terms of the lease.

"We have held off taking legal action for as long as possible but have been left with no choice but to commence proceedings."

Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd. signed a 150-year lease with Wheatcroft and Son in January 2007 but is reported to be heavily in debt.

Ecclestone has criticised the British government for not committing more funds to ensure the nation retains a place on the F1 calendar.

"It's a disgrace that the British government don't step in to help," Ecclestone was quoted as saying. "They are throwing billions at the London Olympics. They could do what is needed to save the race by putting in a fraction of it, 0.002 per cent."