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Mandelson demands British GP fix

Lord Peter Mandelson
Lord Mandelson says the British motorsport industry is worth 4 billion

Formula 1 chief Bernie Ecclestone has been urged to secure the future of the British Grand Prix by the government's Business Secretary Lord Mandelson.

Ecclestone and Silverstone are in talks after Donington Park failed to raise the funds to fulfil its contract.

"Come on you guys, get your act together, get your negotiations done and make the British Grand Prix safe," Mandelson told BBC Radio 5 live.

He added that taxpayers' money would not be used to broker a deal.

Despite the British motorsport industry being worth £4bn to the economy, according to Mandelson, he says it is not the government's place to step in on this occasion.

"It's not as if it's a growing start-up company," he said.

"This is a very cash-rich sport so it would not be possible to justify using taxpayers money for a sport that doesn't actually need our financial help, whatever we're spending on the Olympics."

Losing the grand prix from this country would damage the sport, and also our economy

Business Secretary Lord Mandelson

Doubt was cast over the future of the British Grand Prix, which has taken place every year since 1948, when Donington missed a deadline to prove it could raise the £135m it needed to stage the race.

The F1 industry and British motorsport is now waiting nervously to see if Silverstone and Ecclestone can come sign a contract.

Silverstone Holdings, which operates the track, says its is "getting a lot closer to signing" though F1 commercial rights holder Ecclestone is adamant he will not cut a cheap deal to ensure it goes ahead, and insists that the circuit's facilities will need modernising if the race is to go ahead in 2010 and beyond.

Lord Mandelson said he understands Ecclestone's position, but has stressed how important the British GP is for reasons which go beyond sport.

"He [Ecclestone] has my backing and huge amounts of goodwill," he said.

"But he also has my pressure to make sure that we don't, as if by accident, lose the grand prix from this country. I don't want to see that happen. It would damage the sport but also our economy.

There is a place in F1 for historic tracks. Next year will be 60 years since the start of F1 and it started in Silverstone, and they have something you can't buy

Damon Hill
1996 F1 world champion

"It contributes getting up to £4bn to the economy and if you look at the jobs it creates there are 25,000 engineers involved in this sport in Britain, quite apart from 40,000-odd other jobs.

"So I have a responsibility to retain it and to support the motor sport industry just as I would any other."

Former world champion Damon Hill, the president of Silverstone owners the British Racing Drivers' Club, said: "There is an argument in the UK for it standing up on its own merits as a commercial operation, and if it does that Silverstone can only pay so much.

"But we also have to look at its value to the UK, and how much would you pay you keep it there?

"There is a place in F1 for historic tracks. Next year will be 60 years since the start of F1 and it started in Silverstone, and they have something you can't buy.

"Events that have shown loyalty and allegiance to F1 and have been there through thick and thin are important."

Ecclestone said on Friday that he would be "very upset" not to see a British GP in 2010 - but was also cool about the prospect of it not taking place.

"That deal is better than anybody else's deal anyway so if they [Silverstone] don't like it, it's OK," he told BBC Sport.

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see also
British GP deal very close - Hill
31 Oct 09 |  Formula 1
F1 boss urges Silverstone to sign
30 Oct 09 |  Formula 1
McLaren to fight for British GP
28 Oct 09 |  Formula 1
No Donington GP, says Ecclestone
29 Oct 09 |  Formula 1
Silverstone warned by Ecclestone
24 Oct 09 |  Formula 1
Donington confident on grand prix
03 Oct 09 |  Leicestershire
Ecclestone sends Donington threat
26 Sep 09 |  Formula 1
British GP is secure - Ecclestone
20 Jun 09 |  Formula 1

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