F1 British GP to stay at Silverstone for 17 years

Dec 7, 2009 - 1:20 PM By STUART CONDIE AP Sports Writer

LONDON(AP) -- The British Grand Prix will stay at Silverstone after Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone and the track's owners agreed to a 17-year deal on Monday.

Donington Park was stripped of the right to host next year's British GP after efforts to raise funds for a necessary upgrade failed and the race had been in doubt.

Donington was awarded the 17-year staging rights last year but Donington Ventures Leisure Limited failed to find buyers for seven-year bonds that it hoped would generate $221 million to fund rebuilding work to bring the track up to standard.

Silverstone has staged the British GP, the oldest race on the F1 calendar, every year since 1987 and continued to plan for the 2010 race even after Donington secured the rights.

"We've always had the belief the British Grand Prix was an important cornerstone of Formula One but, with Bernie, you're never quite sure," Silverstone managing director Richard Phillips said. "At the end of the day, though, you have to have a British Grand Prix."

Silverstone will now redevelop its track, starting work on the pit lanes and paddock after Christmas.

"We've always had five-year deals and never been able to get the investment we needed to redevelop," Phillips said. "But 17 years gives us the ability to invest and move forward."

Ecclestone has initially suggested that he would move the race away from Britain if Donington's redevelopment plan failed. But he gradually softened his public stance and said in June that Silverstone could step in.

France, the traditional home of Formula One, lost its Grand Prix in 2008 as the sport expanded into Asia and the Middle East.

"This will ensure the British Grand Prix is included on the Formula One calendar for many years to come, which is something I've always wanted to happen," Ecclestone said.

The 2010 calendar will be announced Wednesday, with the British GP expected to be confirmed for July 11, the same day as soccer's World Cup final in Johannesburg, South Africa.

About 230,000 people attended last year's event over three days.

"The team at Silverstone already know how to organize a good event, and now everyone can look forward to next summer," Ecclestone said.

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