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McLaren to fight for British GP

McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh want to keep the British Grand Prix on the F1 calendar
McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh wants to keep the British Grand Prix

Martin Whitmarsh says McLaren and their Formula 1 rivals will do "all they can" to save the British Grand Prix.

The future of the event remains in doubt after Donington Park failed to raise funds needed to stage the race.

Silverstone wants to host the event on a long-term deal, but fears remain that F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone could opt for a more lucrative deal elsewhere.

"To lose the British Grand Prix would be massively damaging," said Whitmarsh, McLaren's team principal.

"Any team in F1 knows the importance of the British Grand Prix, it's about the quality of the fan base that you experience.

Ecclestone can get a value globally that is far in excess of what he can get for the UK

Damon Hill

"The world championship is 18, 19 or potentially even 20 races, so I guess you couldn't say any of them are absolutely vital, but I think to lose a British Grand Prix would be massively damaging to the sport.

"Anyone who goes around the world attending grands prix will tell you how remarkable a feeling it is to walk through the fans' camp sites at Silverstone. They are such fantastic fans and you really do get that grass-roots enthusiasm.

"I am sure that McLaren, all the teams and Fota (Formula 1 Teams Association) will do everything it can to preserve a British Grand Prix in the calendar."

But Damon Hill, president of the British Racing Drivers' Club that owns Silverstone, is not convinced the race will be staged at the Northamptonshire track and says it faces stiff competition from other venues around the world.

The 1996 F1 world champion, who is not directly involved in negotiations to bring the British GP back to Silverstone, told BBC Radio 5 live: "F1 can go anywhere in the world and get a huge amount of money.

"That's what Bernie's wrestling with. But it's not his job to give a discounted rate to the UK."

The British GP has been held every year since 1948 and has a rich history. Britain has also won the last two drivers' titles through Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, while Brackley-based Brawn clinched this year's constructors' crown.

606: DEBATE
Readbetween

"There's a whole load of reasons why it should happen here," Hill added. "But ultimately you are competing against countries which are able to inject public money into their infrastructure and into the contract of the grand prix. That seems to be the stumbling block here."

The proposed move to Donington Park was announced in July 2008, but a deadline passed on Monday for the company redeveloping the circuit to prove it had the £135m funding required.

In June, Ecclestone said there would definitely be a British GP in 2010 and it would be at Silverstone if Donington failed to come through.

But more recently he has backtracked and said it is not certain there will be a grand prix in Britain next year at all.

He said on Friday: "I want a British Grand Prix, of course, but we are not going to do special rates for Britain.

"If they [Silverstone] can't make it work then don't do it. If that happens, there won't be a British Grand Prix. Simple as that."

Hill says Ecclestone, who has long criticised the lack of investment in upgrading Silverstone, could take up the chance to earn more money elsewhere by giving the slot in the calendar to a country such as South Korea, which is on the provisional grand prix list for 2010.

"He can get a value globally that is far in excess of what he can get for the UK," Hill said. "We can respect that it is a difficult position for him to be in. He has to answer to his shareholders.

"There are options on the table. There are discussions taking place and I'm hopeful something can be sorted out."

The British GP was almost dropped in 2005 because of a dispute between Ecclestone and the BRDC, which refused to pay the race fee he had demanded.

The race was left off the provisional race calendar but was reinstated after negotiations produced an agreement.

Silverstone has hosted every British Grand Prix since 1987, while Donington, which is synonymous with MotoGP, has held only one F1 race, the European Grand Prix in 1993.



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see also
Hill fears for British GP future
27 Oct 09 |  Formula 1
Hill positive on Silverstone deal
26 Oct 09 |  Formula 1
Silverstone warned by Ecclestone
24 Oct 09 |  Formula 1
F1 could mean boost for Donington
13 Oct 09 |  People and Places
Donington confident on grand prix
03 Oct 09 |  Leicestershire
Donington quiet as deadline nears
02 Oct 09 |  Leicestershire
Ecclestone sends Donington threat
26 Sep 09 |  Formula 1
Donington track shuts for F1 work
24 Sep 09 |  Leicestershire
British GP is secure - Ecclestone
20 Jun 09 |  Formula 1
Donington secures 17-year F1 deal
15 Jun 09 |  Leicestershire


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