Teams' sacrifice 'key' to deal

The British and French Grands Prix look set to be saved after nine of F1's ten teams and Formula One Management principal Bernie Ecclestone agreed to take a financial 'hit' to keep the races on the calendar, at today's (Tuesday's) crunch meeting in the Hilton Hotel at Heathrow Airport

Teams' sacrifice 'key' to deal

The nine teams agreed to bare the brunt of their operating costs for the extra races, which will become the 18th and 19th events on the calendar, for the benefit of the sport. This could cost the top teams as much as £3 million each per extra race.

It is understood that the teams will be given an extra £1m each for the extra races, which is well below what it will cost them to take part at Silverstone and Magny-Cours. For a team like Minardi the shortfall will be about £280,000 per race, but for leading teams like Williams and McLaren the cost could be more than 10 times that.

"We believe agreement was reached today that removes any obvious obstacle for the British and French GPs to take place," said McLaren team principal Ron Dennis. "It is our view that we should have the strongest possible world championship and that view is best served by having those two races on the calendar."

Ferrari did not attend the meeting at Heathrow because no representative was available, however team principal Jean Todt has previously indicated that he would not stand in the way of the British and French GPs being staged.

"The world championship will be 19 races," said Ecclestone who indicated that support is required from both Ferrari and the FIA for the races to take place. "What is important is that we can't do this without Ferrari agreeing.

"The FIA have said that perhaps their costs will go up, which I am sure they will by doing two extra races - we want them to make a contribution by not charging for those extra races. The FOM is making a big sacrifice and the teams are making an enormous sacrifice, so everybody is giving a bit to keep a bloody good world championship."

Ecclestone, who last month called off negotiations for Silverstone to host the British Grand Prix in 2005 with the circuit's owners, the British Racing Drivers' Club, admitted that a contract had yet to be signed but emerged from the meeting convinced that a resolution will be found.

"Don't worry about Silverstone, we will deal with Silverstone," said Ecclestone. "We have the most difficult part [sorted out], the most important part was getting the teams to agree to go to 19 races. We have taken care of all the teams, they have been wonderful. In all the years I have done F1 I have never been to a meeting that has been so good and nice.

"We haven't got a contract with Silverstone so it could well be that when it comes to putting the contract together they don't agree," he continued. "We can't make them sign. I would be shattered and disappointed if the British GP didn't take place. As would the teams... they have been super, super supportive."

The BRDC welcomed the news although it pointed out in statement that it had yet to be contacted regarding any possible agreement: "The BRDC have not yet been officially informed of any proposal by FOM, but if there is a new proposal to safeguard the British Grand Prix in 2005 which makes financial sense for the sport, the industry, the Club and especially the local economy, it will be seriously considered by the Board of the BRDC."

Ferrari declined to comment on the agreements made at Heathrow.

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