Ecclestone to drop British GP

Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has decided to drop the British Grand Prix from next year's schedule after a deadline to have a promoter's contract signed for next year expired without agreement on Thursday, autosport.com understands

Ecclestone to drop British GP

Although Ecclestone has made it clear that no final decision about the race's fate will be made until a meeting of the World Council of motor racing's governing body, the FIA, on October 13 - sources claim that there is now almost no way for agreement to be reached in that period and that Ecclestone has decided to write the event off the 2005 schedule.

Silverstone's owners, the BRDC, had offered to become promoters of the race in a cut-price deal for Ecclestone that is understood to be around £2 million below the usual price for European events. Ecclestone did not accept that offer and only this week he warned that he would be playing 'hardball' over the issue.

The BRDC in return has found itself unable to modify its offer because, at best, it stands only to break even under the current terms of the deal - and any increase in the financial offer made to Ecclestone would expose the club to the risk of going bankrupt.

And despite the fact that there is two weeks to go before the British Grand Prix will officially be off next year's schedule at the FIA meeting, Ecclestone suggested on Thursday that there was no future comeback in putting a fresh offer on the table.

"The deadline to have a promoter's contract signed is 30th September, 2004," he said.

The loss of the British Grand Prix will be a major blow for British motor sport and is the culmination of years of speculation about the race's future following complaints about the circuit's facilities and traffic management.

BRDC chief executive Alex Hooton told autosport.com that although there was little that the club could do to help put the race back on the 2005 schedule, it would continue its dialogue with the government and try to get the British Grand Prix back in 2006.

"We are in negotiations with the government with regards the redevelopment of the circuit, as opposed to the annual running of the race, and those negotiations are ongoing," he said. "We are hopeful that the dialogue with F1 will continue and that we will, at some stage in the future, be able to reach a satisfactory conclusion to bring the race back to Silverstone."

With next year's calendar originally having featured 19 races, it is looking likely that there will be only 17 in the schedule released by the FIA - with the French Grand Prix also set to be axed as well.

The Magny-Cours event only just made it onto the 2004 schedule after a last-minute deal with Ecclestone but, with teams believed to be reluctant to have more than 17 races next year because of rising costs in the sport, it appears that France and Britain will have no way of getting back on the 2005 calendar.

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