British GP due to be axed in 2005
LONDON, England -- The British Grand Prix is to be dropped from the 2005 Formula One calendar, former champion Jackie Stewart has revealed.
"At the moment it seems that the calendar is not going to include the British Grand Prix for 2005," Stewart, president of the British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC) owners of the Silverstone circuit, told BBC radio.
Formula One's commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone had set Thursday as his deadline for offers to promote the race at Silverstone.
The BRDC made an offer earlier this month to promote the race for the next three years.
The Silverstone track, which hosts the event, was not included on the 2005 provisional calendar, according to a report by the BBC, although the decision has still to be ratified by the world council of the FIA, which meets on October 13.
Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone reportedly wanted 8.9 million pounds ($16.12m) from race organizers BRDC to host the race at Silverstone.
BRDC president Jackie Stewart described the decision as "a disaster" and called on Ecclestone to rethink.
"We've gone as far as we can in making cutbacks in other areas to be able to afford the Grand Prix because we feel it is very important for the country as a whole," Stewart said.
"The gap between money being asked for (by Formula One) and what we can offer is comparatively small - in single figures of millions - but the amount is unaffordable.
"The British Racing Drivers Club cannot afford the British Grand Prix at any price."
It is the first time since the world championship began at Silverstone in 1950 that the calendar has been without a British race.
Stewart was also critical of the British government for failing to offer financial help.
"We've been in contact with the government for nearly four years," said Stewart.
"Unlike in other countries where Grands Prix are hosted - these governments have assisted in hosting and promoting the Grands Prix - our Government has made a decision it does not wish to do that."
Government hits back
But the government hit back at Stewart.
"Clearly the Government supports and wants to see a British Grand Prix at Silverstone - but the current commercial negotiations about the promotion of the grand prix are a matter between the BRDC and Formula One," said a spokesman.
"We have done everything, and will continue to, to help bring the parties together to discuss the matter.
"The Formula One race calendar for 2005 will not be finalized until the next FIA world motor sport council meeting on October 13.
"The government has already made significant financial contribution to motorsport and Silverstone - in 2002 we invested over 16 million pounds to support the industry and eight million pounds to improve road access around the track."