Nigel Mansell launched a campaign to save the British Grand Prix yesterday but his fellow former world champion, Sir Jackie Stewart, insisted that the situation had not changed materially despite this and fresh Government initiatives.
Mansell, the entrepreneur Kim Cockburn, a former touring car racer Robb Gravett and the photographer David Phipps are running their rescue plan under the aegis of Brand Synergy Limited. It will mean them paying the British Racing Drivers Club to take over the promotional rights to the race.
"For drivers, Silverstone is one of the best circuits in the world," Mansell said, "but some of the facilities are not as good as those at new, government-funded circuits like Shanghai. We are going to rectify this."
Mansell and Cockburn claim to have the backing of "a major British development company," that has agreed to assist BSL and the BRDC.
"I have been talking to Kim Cockburn about this for a long time," Bernie Ecclestone said, "and am confident that Brand Synergy can get the job done." Cockburn said: "There is a deal on the boardroom table of the BRDC that is good for them, good for the fans and good for the long-term future of motorsport in this country."
She added: "I have agreed with Bernie to sign a seven-year licence and am confident that Silverstone will appear on the calendar for 2005 and the foreseeable future."
So far, however, the BRDC say they have not even discussed the issue of money with BSL. Meanwhile, Government sanction has enabled the East Midlands Development Agency to offer allowances for parties stepping forward to help fund the race.
"We have heard from Government with some optimism over these allowances," Stewart, president of the BRDC, said yesterday, "but there is nothing else so far that will top-up the pot and close the deficit significantly. Things have not materially moved at all.
"With the Retail Price Index running below two per cent and a compound interest escalator of 10 per cent in the deal the effect would be to double the $15.8m [£8.8m] asking price over the term of the seven-year contract that Bernie Ecclestone wants. In all conscience we could not consider that."
The race will almost certainly be on the official 2005 F1 calendar to be released by the Fia next week, but only provisionally, pending resolution of the financial troubles. The Canadian and French races faced a similar situation this season.
"From the drivers' point of view it's disappointing, because your home grand prix is very, very special," BAR's Jenson Button said in Suzuka. "I have loved F1 for many years, as a youngster the one race I used to watch was the British Grand Prix. It would be devastating if there was no grand prix in Britain next year. Silverstone is a great circuit. If it isn't on the calendar we would lose a good race."
Michael Schumacher said: "I wouldn't want to comment on something that has such a long way to go but it would be a shame. The circuit is a great challenge and there is a lot of support in England - motorsport has a great tradition there."
The official announcement of an 11th F1 team is expected tomorrow. The Dallara marque will return in a team funded by Canadian domiciled Russian steel baron Alex Shafer. They will test in 2005 and race in 2006