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Page last updated at 08:59 GMT, Wednesday, 2 July 2008 09:59 UK

F1 needs British GP, says Webber

Friday: Practice 1000 and 1400 BST Saturday: Final practice 1000 BST; Qualifying 1300 BST Sunday: Race 1300 BST
Live coverage: Practice on BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra, qualifying and race on Radio 5 Live and BBC Sport website; text commentary on BBC Sport website

By Andrew Benson

The start of last year's British Grand Prix
Silverstone's place on the F1 calendar is under threat

Formula One needs to safeguard historic races such as the British Grand Prix, according to Red Bull's Mark Webber.

The race's future is in doubt as talks continue about a contract beyond 2009.

And Webber told BBC Sport: "We need a British Grand Prix because of the history that surrounds it and the industry that supports it.

"It is so deep-rooted. We have already lost Imola, Suzuka and some others. We cannot afford to lose Silverstone, Monza, Spa, circuits like that."

The British Racing Drivers' Club, which owns Silverstone, is in negotiations with F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone about a new contract from 2010.

But Ecclestone has said he does not think the BRDC can afford his asking price.

The deal is contingent upon Silverstone completing an upgrade to the track, which received planning permission last month.

But Silverstone could find itself in a catch 22 situation as work will probably not start on the upgrade until a new contract is completed.

Webber, writing in his BBC Sport column, said the circuit did not deserve the criticism that is levelled at its facilities.

"It comes in for a lot of criticism from Bernie but I went up there a few weeks ago on my way back from Bahrain and I was just blown away by it. Everything was top dollar," said the Australian.

Damon Hill
I am 100% confident we have got what it takes and we can deliver what F1 and the UK will be proud of

Damon Hill
"The lawns looked beautiful. The flags were all freshly pressed. I thought: 'Wow, they're trying hard'.

"There are always areas you can improve - the garages are tight, for example - but everything else is pretty good. Silverstone is one of the better venues, if not the best venue, at the moment.

"Having said that, I am sure Bernie is not bluffing with his threats. It is his train set and he can put the rails down as he likes.

"One day he might follow through with what he is saying. It needs to be respected that there are other countries pushing to host a race.

"We do not have to have anything - whether it is a race in Britain or Australia. Having said that, we have had a British Grand Prix for 60 years and I think Bernie would probably think it would be wrong not to have one."

Webber acknowledged the need to keep expanding F1 into new venues but said that the sport's historic tracks should be protected.

"I would like us to keep as many of those trademark venues as we can," he stated.

"We do need to go with the flow - and go where the sport needs to be to grow - but we have already lost Imola, Suzuka and some others. And we cannot afford to lose Silverstone, Monza, Spa, circuits like that."

BRDC president Damon Hill said that he could not be sure of a successful conclusion to the negotiations over the race's future.

"Right now, I would say it is 50/50 whether we keep the race but I am not going to assume anything when it comes to F1," added Hill.

"My experience is you should never make some presumptions, so it would be prudent to consider it in a 50/50 figure.

"But we're definitely making progress. We have the planning consent for our pit and paddock complex and it's one step at a time.

"The negotiations typically will be ongoing and I expect won't come to a conclusion until the final hour, whenever that is.

"If we're going to fulfil the building requirements then ideally we have to get going on it before the end of this year, so at this moment it's situation normal.

"As to what it will cost, I can only give you a ballpark figure of 30m. That's to develop Silverstone and keep it as a premier motorsport venue.

"But I am 100% confident we have got what it takes and we can deliver what F1 and the UK will be proud of."

see also
Mark Webber column
02 Jul 08 |  Formula One
Abu Dhabi to stage 2009 F1 finale
25 Jun 08 |  Formula One
Hamilton upbeat for Silverstone
26 Jun 08 |  Formula One
Silverstone pit complex approved
30 May 08 |  Formula One

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