Stewart slams Grand Prix switch

Jackie Stewart has criticised the decision to switch the British Grand Prix from its traditional mid-season date to April for next year.

Jackie Stewart has criticised the decision to switch the British Grand Prix from its traditional mid-season date to April for next year.

The three-time former world champion believes the Silverstone event should have stayed in July.

The British Grand Prix will take place on Easter Sunday, 23 April, next year on the 17-race calendar issued last week by Formula One chiefs with Austria taking the mid-July date.

"It's highly unusual and I cannot understand why the British Grand Prix is now in April," said Stewart, whose team he sold to Ford earlier this year will be renamed Jaguar Racing for 2000.

"Wimbledon hasn't had its date changed for very many years, neither has the (FA) Cup Final, neither has the Indianapolis 500 been on anything other than Memorial Day.

"Why then has the British Grand Prix been moved. The middle of July is a time which is very strong.

"It may well clash with other sporting events in the United Kingdom but that is true of everything.

"I don't think any of the teams were consulted on it, I don't think any of the major sponsors were consulted either, which I find surprising in this commercial world we live in.

"We are disappointed as a new team coming in with a new identity and Jaguar would have liked to have had it in July."

But Britain's Formula One drivers have reacted with indifference to the date change which sees their home grand prix fourth on the calendar after Australia (March 12), Brazil (March 26) and San Marino (April 9).

McLaren's David Coulthard, who claimed his first home victory last July, said: "The Easter weekend works well for a lot of families and individuals.

"It is unusual to change the date to a potentially colder time of year. But it is just another date in the calendar of 17 races even though it is the British Grand Prix.

"It was nice when it was in the middle of the year because everyone was up to speed and understood where they stand competitively, but what can we do? That's the way its going to be."

Johnny Herbert, who will partner Eddie Irvine at Jaguar Racing, said: "It doesn't make any difference to me really.

"There is a race every two weeks next year so where it is in the calendar is pretty immaterial. At least it is in the calendar.

"You could say the teams would be better prepared for their home race later in the year but, equally, if one team gets their act together earlier than the others they could benefit from the date change."

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