Stewart's Silverstone plea

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The Independent Online

Sir Jackie Stewart has pleaded with Formula One officials not to strip Silverstone of its championship status.

A move to downgrade the British Grand Prix, following traffic problems during the last two years, will be discussed by the World Council of the International Automobile Federation (FIA), which will make a decision next Friday.

If Silverstone is downgraded, even though a £60m facelift is underway, the top teams and drivers would be under no obligation to race there. That could prompt a move to replace Silverstone on the 17-race FIA calendar.

Stewart, the chairman of the British Racing Drivers' Club, one of three parties involved in the Silverstone improvements, said: "I would hope FIA has the wisdom and foresight not to undermine the future of the British Grand Prix at a time when there is a huge commitment to ending the problems that have existed in the past. I can see no reason why they [the FIA] should be thinking about making the British Grand Prix a non-championship race when we are putting up at least £60m to make it a state-of-the-art circuit."

An experimental series, which intends to compete with Formula One, has postponed its first race by eight months. The 24-team Premier 1 Grand Prix was to start in July 2002, but organisers said they need more time "to finalise the complex commercial arrangements with the chosen race circuits." The inaugural event was rescheduled for March 2003.