Hamilton hails Silverstone deal

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The Independent Online

McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton has reacted with delight to the news the British Grand Prix has been saved and will be staged at its traditional home at Silverstone for the next 17 years.

The deal between Silverstone's owners, the British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC), and F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone was announced today and brings an end to months of wrangling over the future of the event.

Silverstone, which hosted the first ever F1 race in 1950 and has been a permanent feature on the calendar since 1987, got the nod after a mooted switch to Donington Park fell through after bosses at the Leicestershire circuit failed to meet its obligations.

With Hamilton set to be joined by reigning world champion and compatriot Jenson Button at McLaren next season, British interest in the sport has never been higher, and the 24-year-old is thrilled by the prospect of returning to the scene of one of his greatest ever performances.

Hamilton obliterated the field in soaking conditions at Silverstone in his 2008 championship-winning year, winning by over a minute, and is now eyeing yet more glory at the famous old track.

"Firstly, it's fantastic news the British Grand Prix will stay on the calendar for 2010," Hamilton said.

"Secondly, it's great the race will be at Silverstone.

"The place has an atmosphere money can't buy and I have some fantastic memories of the track, winning both races in GP2 in 2006, getting an incredibly emotional and satisfying pole in 07 and winning in the wet in my championship year.

"Most importantly, those achievements have all been underlined by the reaction and support of the Silverstone crowd, which has always been fantastic.

"British fans are the greatest Formula One supporters in the world and this must be the best Christmas present they could ever ask for.

"I can't wait to come home to the British Grand Prix next year when both Jenson and I will be flying the flag for Britain and doing our best to win the race."

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh added: "From the perspective of McLaren, we are now tremendously looking forward to the race.

"With Jenson and Lewis, our two British world champions, we will travel to Silverstone knowing the focus will be on us to perform."

BRDC member Martin Brundle, a former grand prix driver and now an esteemed BBC commentator, also welcomed confirmation of the deal.

"It's brilliant news, isn't it?" said Brundle, who finished third in the 1992 British Grand Prix at Silverstone while driving for Benetton.

"I'm sure it was tough to get the numbers workable, and all of the other criteria.

"I kind of assumed it would happen in the end because everybody wants the same thing.

"It's important for British motorsport, it's important for Formula One.

"Of course, we want the new circuits around the globe that are different, and certainly from a media point of view when we head off somewhere new, it's a new story, a different style of grand prix.

"But they have to be balanced out with the history and heritage of places like Silverstone.

"The drivers love the circuit, the fans support the circuit, they support all the drivers, it's not just a partisan thing of waving the Union Jack.

"But we know have to look to the British public to rush in and buy some tickets, and hopefully they will, even though it's so late in the day."

Commentating legend Murray Walker, another BRDC member, was similarly enthused by the news, saying: "I'm aware of the fact the people at Silverstone have sweated blood to make this deal happen.

"It would have been a travesty of justice if it hadn't happened.

"Now thousands and thousands of people are going to be overjoyed, and behalf of all of them I'd like to say thank you very much to those people at Silverstone, and very well done."

Reflecting on the new deal, Ecclestone said: "I am pleased to have reached an agreement with Silverstone for the retention of the British Grand Prix.

"This will ensure Great Britain will remain on the Formula One calendar for many years to come which is something I have personally always wanted to see happen.

"The team at Silverstone already know how to organise a good event, and now everyone can look forward to next summer at Silverstone."