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  Thursday, 4 July, 2002, 09:23 GMT 10:23 UK
Stewart voices British GP concern
Sir Jackie Stewart
Stewart insists Britain cannot afford to lose its GP
Former world champion Sir Jackie Stewart has warned that Britain cannot afford to be "weak" and lose its Grand Prix status.

Round 10 of the Formula One season is at Silverstone this weekend and Stewart insisted that the race still faced the realistic prospect of being axed from the current calendar.

China, Egypt, Russia and Bahrain are among the countries aiming to be the next venues for a Grand Prix.

But Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone has said that the new venues will only be added at the expense of current races.

Stewart said: "There are only 17 Grands Prix a year and it doesn't matter who comes in, the weak ones who don't perform will fall to make way for them.


Britain can't afford to lose the British Grand Prix
Sir Jackie Stewart

"The biggest threat is that there are a great many countries in the world who want a Grand Prix and have the money to spend and don't mind spending that money.

"We have to be sure that Britain isn't one of the weak ones.

"This is the country where the capital of motorsport lives and we have to make sure that goes on.

"If we lost the British Grand Prix, it would be very, very negative for this country."

Traffic chaos

Stewart has continually called for the government's financial support to improve Silverstone and maintain its GP status.

And Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt is expected to announce measures to safeguard Silverstone's future on Thursday.

The major problem in recent seasons has been traffic around the track, something Stewart believes may drastically improve this weekend.

Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt
Hewitt is expected to pledge state support

"We cannot afford any more traffic chaos and a tremendous amount of work has been put in to making the new Silverstone road system as good as we can do in the short term," Stewart added.

Stewart, as president of the British Racing Drivers Club, has already pulled in 65m in private funding.

And he believes the government is beginning to pledge its support to the Northamptonshire circuit and the sport as a whole.

"We don't have any other industry like this and we must protect it," he said. "The government has been very receptive.

"They have recognised they have to participate with us to retain the Grand Prix and to retain the motorsport industry."

But the three-time world champion insisted the government should follow the examples of other countries.

He said: "Almost every government in the world helps its Grand Prix.

"In Australia, they put in about 50m to assist the Australian Grand Prix."

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Former world champion Sir Jackie Stewart
"Silverstone is one of the best tracks in the world"
See also:

04 Jul 02 | Formula One
03 Jul 02 | Formula One
03 Jul 02 | Formula One
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