Italian government backs Imola

The British government is likely to face fresh pressure to reconsider its refusal to help save the British Grand Prix after its Italian counterpart had no hesitation in coming forward on Saturday to declare that it will act to safeguard one of its country's races

Italian government backs Imola

As the controversy over whether the British government should step in to help save Silverstone shows no sign of dying down, Italian government officials said they would do all they could to secure the San Marino Grand Prix's long-term future.

Although many had put Imola as favourite to drop from the Formula 1 calendar next season, a promised modernisation of the venue appears to have helped it survive while Britain and France look set to become victims and fall off the schedule.

And in a bid to ensure that there are no doubts about the long-term place of the San Marino Grand Prix on the F1 calendar, Italy's national government has promised to lend its support to any funding needed at the Imola circuit to improve its facilities.

Piero Lunardi, Italy's minister for Transport and Infrastructure, said: "After a period of study about restructuring the race track of Imola with the aim of guaranteeing the permanence of the circuit for F1, the ministry proposes to partially cover the necessary costs of the modernisation."

Italy's stance in safeguarding the event will come as a bitter blow to Silverstone's owner, the British Racing Drivers' Club, which has been told by the British government that there will be no assistance in helping keep the event on the calendar next season.

Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has, however, not completely ruled out a scenario in which the British GP could find its way back onto the calendar - but believes it will be necessary for individuals to dig into their own pockets.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 he said: "In the end there was about £3million difference. We agreed with the Minister of Sport Richard Caborn who asked me: 'Bernie can't you help, do something about it'. So we split the difference basically, so there was about £1.5million difference.

"I read that they said the Northampton area was going to lose £30million or £40million if this race went away. I thought they would just have said to the BRDC, 'You're short of £1.5million, we'll put that in because we're still £28m better off'.

"But nobody's done any of those things, nobody wants to give anything, nobody wants to do anything. They expect us to do everything and we have, we have. We've met people halfway because that's what our sports minister asked us to do, and that's what we did."

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