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British GP doomed says Ecclestone

Ecclestone said that another country is eager to agree a lucrative deal
Bernie Ecclestone
British Racing Drivers' Club

LONDON, England -- The British Grand Prix now looks sure to be removed from the Formula One calendar next year, says the F1 commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone.

Negotiations with the owners of Silverstone, the British Racing Drivers' Club have broken down over the length of financial contracts and Ecclestone said: "We have to admit defeat and end the discussions."

He added: "It looks certain that there will not be a British Grand Prix in 2005."

Ecclestone explained: "We have been unable to reach agreement on the length of the commitment or the financial terms.

"What more can anyone do? The BRDC want everything their way. Business life is not like that," he told the Daily Express.

But BRDC president Jackie Stewart insisted that the future of the race was "still very much under discussion" and said that Ecclestone was going back on commitments made to British Sports Minister Richard Caborn.

Reports say that the BRDC want a two-year contract with a five-year extension, but Ecclestone offered a one-year contract with a six-year extension.

Ecclestone controls the commercial rights for the British Grand Prix after the U.S. advertising giant Interpublic Group paid him $93 million to extricate itself from its commitments.

The 73-year-old Ecclestone has said that he would not promote the race himself and last month he threatened to axe it, for the first time since the Formula One championship began in 1950, after the BRDC made an offer that fell short of his demands.

Since then negotiations have continued and there has also been a bid by a little-known consortium backed by former world champion Nigel Mansell.

Ecclestone also told the Daily Express: "I have a country knocking down my door for a race who are prepared to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to build a state-of-the-art circuit for F1 in the 21st century and to make a guaranteed commitment to pay substantially more than we have agreed to accept from the BRDC.

"That is a seven-year deal, with an option on our part to extend for five years.

"I can't make a sensible business case for turning them down in order to give the BRDC a two-year deal at a significant discount, which they want while they make up their minds what they want to do.

"If in two years the BRDC decides it does not want to exercise the option, F1 will have lost the chance of an attractive new venue."

Silverstone still has a provisional date of July 3 on next year's calendar, which will be finalized on December 10. The races in France and San Marino are also subject to further contract discussions.

Ecclestone added: "As much as I would like to have a British Grand Prix, I have done more than I have for any other race in the world to try to keep it on. But I cannot make a deal without the other side and I have to move on."

Not dead yet

Stewart said that he did not accept that the race was dead yet.

He claimed that Ecclestone assured Richard Caborn that he would commit to a two-year contract so that Silverstone could develop the land.

"He's now walked away, I understand, from that commitment, which is unusual," Stewart told BBC Radio.

He added that the deal Ecclestone had offered featured 10 percent compounded annual interest. "This would double the price after seven years - this is unaffordable," said Stewart.

Stewart also said: "He has already been paid in full for the British Grand Prix through 2010 by the previous promoters. I doubt there are as many Grands Prix around the world as he says he has to pay these prices.

"We need to get down again to negotiations and I think the Minister needs to join us."

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