Silverstone deal secures future of British Grand Prix
The British Grand Prix has been saved following a new deal agreed between Silverstone chiefs and Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone.
The news was confirmed today by Silverstone Circuits Limited, with the contract to run for the next 17 years.
It ensures the oldest race on the F1 calendar retains its place in motor sport history, with Silverstone able to step into the breach following Donington Park's failure to meet its obligations.
Silverstone managing director Richard Phillips said: "We've always had five-year deals and never been able to get the investment we needed to redevelop.
"But 17 years gives us the ability to invest and move forward.
"We've always had the belief the British Grand Prix was an important cornerstone of Formula One but, with Bernie, you're never quite sure.
"At the end of the day, though, you have to have a British Grand Prix.
"We've now got to sell a lot of tickets, to get out there and do similar sorts of numbers as we did this year when we had 230,000 people there over the three days, and promote the event."
Phillips described the deal as "peace in our time" between the circuit's owners, the British Racing Drivers Club, and Ecclestone.
"The relationship with Formula One Management has been improving," added Phillips.
"There's a good working relationship with him now and we don't have any issues."
Concerns had initially been raised with regards to the terms of the contract as it was understood Ecclestone was looking for a seven per cent annual increase on an initial £12million starting fee.
But Silverstone Circuits Ltd and the BRDC are adamant they have not agreed a deal that would ultimately bankrupt the track.
Phillips remarked: "The details have been much better negotiated than previously. This one is well thought through."
Applauding the negotiating team, BRDC president and 1996 F1 world champion Damon Hill said: "It's not easy to enter into an agreement of this magnitude. It's a big commitment.
"But the BRDC felt we wanted this relationship to continue, and we were prepared to back the negotiating team, with the level of risk satisfactory for the deal to go ahead."
Hill added: "This announcement is tremendous news.
"It really does cement Silverstone as a motor sport venue and is incredibly satisfying for the BRDC to cement its relationship with F1.
"We want Silverstone to be retained as a place for motor sport, for motor racing of all sorts, but significantly the British Grand Prix.
"We're also looking forward to the bike grand prix (Moto GP), on top of the British Grand Prix."
Ecclestone, who has long derided Silverstone as a venue, has played his part in the deal as he will take a financial hit of more than £60million over the course of the 17 years.
The escalator clause is understood to be set at five per cent rather than seven, although Ecclestone's FOM still stand to collect £310million over the duration.
However, there is another clause inserted into the deal that allows Silverstone to pull out after 10 years, appreciably should they reach a point when they cannot afford to pay.
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."
Sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe naturally expressed his delight at today's announcement.
"It is great news that Britain will continue to host a grand prix, with the race's long-term future secured at Silverstone," remarked Sutcliffe.
"Britain has a rich motor sports heritage, with so many teams based in this country and champions down the decades from Jackie Stewart to Lewis Hamilton, from Jim Clark to Jenson Button.
"The news the British Grand Prix is to stay at the iconic Northamptonshire track will be welcomed by millions of fans - not just in this country but across the world.
"I applaud the work of Damon Hill, his colleagues at the BRDC, and Bernie Ecclestone for coming together to agree the new contract, which has the potential to take our long love affair with the sport to new heights.
"I look forward to next year's event."
Business Secretary Lord Mandelson also welcomed the new agreement.
He said: "It's fantastic that Silverstone will host the British Grand Prix. I have been in regular contact with Bernie Ecclestone on the future of the British Grand Prix so I am delighted that a deal has now been signed.
"Silverstone has iconic status and a natural home for the British Grand Prix. Let's hope that UK sports fans will be celebrating more British victories for many years to come."
The news has also been greeted with delight by McLaren racer Lewis Hamilton, who said: "Firstly, it's fantastic news the British Grand Prix will stay on the calendar for 2010.
"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 (2008).
"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 (team-mate and world champion) Jenson (Button) and I will be flying the flag for Britain and doing our best to win the race."
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh added: "The Formula One world championship wouldn't be complete without a race in Great Britain.
"So today's announcement is good news for every Formula One team and the millions of grand prix fans who understand the importance of a British Grand Prix to the fabric of world motorsport.
"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.
"We want to provide the best show we can for the many thousands of supporters who will be cheering their national heroes throughout the weekend."
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