Stewart downbeat over Brit GP

British Racing Drivers' Club president Sir Jackie Stewart says that with Bernie Ecclestone's end of September deadline fast approaching, the future of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone still hangs in the balance. And Stewart says he is particularly upset that Ecclestone has told the British government not to assist

Stewart downbeat over Brit GP

"When you come and see what has been done here," Stewart told autosport.com referring to the spectacular Shanghai venue, "what is more disappointing to me than anything else is that last week Bernie told the government that under no circumstances should they give any taxpayers money to keep the British Grand Prix and to help Silverstone. And yet, look at this facility (achieved with government funding at an estimated cost of more than £300 million). And look at every Grand Prix that we go to with the exception of Indianapolis."

Stewart added that he was not in a position to say anything positive about Silverstone's position.

"Clearly, Bernie let us know that we should try and get something together by the end of September. He asked us for an amount of money that we were not able to accept. We provided an offer that has now been lodged with Bernie, which would allow us not to make any money but, at best, to break even. There's a shortfall and if that isn't met or somehow handled, then I think there's no alternative for us to decline the sort of money that Bernie is asking for, simply on the basis that it's unaffordable."

Stewart declined to disclose the amount at issue, saying: "We are in conversation with both Bernie and government because the government needs to know that there is a very strong chance that we will lose the British Grand Prix. They may not wish to assist but it would be a considerable loss to the British economy, both regionally for Northamptonshire, Aylesbury Vale and East Midlands, as well as to the motorsport industry. The Jaguar announcement in the last 10 days has highlighted that even more - the fact that we have to be very careful what we are doing in order to retain what we've got."

Stewart had no idea of Ecclestone's agenda. "You would have to ask him," he said. "We want to keep the British Grand Prix but not on the basis of bankrupting anybody. And Bernie's already been paid in full for the Grand Prix by IPG (Interpublic Group, which paid Ecclestone to be released from its long-term obligations as promoter). We have been compensated for our lease by IPG but we've got to run the race track. They were doing that and we now have to spend the money to run the track and to run motor sport from grass roots level to national and international level at Silverstone.

"We are now withdrawing from all sorts of spend within the BRDC in order to afford that, so we've cut back on everything - young driver programmes and all sorts of things that were very important to us because we were the only people doing it. Nobody else is putting any money back into the sport. So, if the Grand Prix must go, it must go. It can't be held for mammoth losses to one little operation."

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