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GP Week : Issue 69
F1 SUPREMO Bernie Ecclestone has o ered Silverstone a contract to continue hosting the British Grand Prix, after the bond scheme launched by Donington Park to raise the £135 million it needed to complete track redevelopment and host the race, failed. Although Donington owners DVLL have until today to come up with the funds, DVLL boss Simon Gillett announced late last week that its bond scheme had failed. As such only an equity investor can now save Donington's chances of hosting the British Grand Prix, and with little interest believed to exist in such a deal, Ecclestone has offered the race back to Silverstone. "Silverstone have a contract in front of them," Ecclestone told Britain's The Daily Express. "We've no commercial arrangement in place for a British Grand Prix for next year. That is why the race has an asterisk beside it on the 2010 calendar. If they can't make it work then don't do it. If that happens, there won't be a British Grand Prix. Simple as that." The BRDC, which owns the Silverstone circuit, is believed to be stalling over the price of the deal, however, as it is understood to have been offered on the same basis as the deal which the Club rejected 18 months ago. Although the track recently announced a profit for the 2008 season, the last minute nature of the deal to host the race in 2010 has left them in what they believe to be a position of negotiating strength. Ecclestone has ruled out the prospect of Britain being given a discount rate, similar to those enjoyed by the Italian and Monaco Grands Prix as the sport's 'traditional' and perceived protected races. "The contract they have is the contract we like," he said. "We are not prepared to charge less. Do we need a British Grand Prix? No. I want a British Grand Prix, of course, but we are not going to do special rates for Britain." The British Grand Prix may yet serve to benefit from newly-elected FIA President Jean Todt. The Frenchman has appointed Britain's RAC MSA representative Graham Stoker as FIA deputy president for Sport and Ecclestone may yet find himself under pressure from the new powerbrokers at the FIA, and in particular Stoker, to ensure the future of the British Grand Prix. And with Todt at the head of the body, one can assume it to be only a matter of time before the question of the French Grand Prix is also back on the agenda. As for Donington, the news goes from bad to worse. With DVLL almost certain to be found in default on Monday and facing insolvency for unpaid bills including monies owned to the track's original owners the Wheatcroft family, Gillett is likely to have to hand back the circuit to original owner Tom Wheatcroft. Add to this the fact that DVLL will owe Ecclestone's FOA an incredible £18million in liquidated damages, increasing by 7 percent for each of the 17 years the track was due to host the British Grand Prix, and the financial size of Simon Gillett's failure becomes strikingly clear. Bernie o ers British GP to Silverstone F1 NEWS >> NEWLY-crowned six-time World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb has been denied the chance to make his F1 debut at the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, after his application for an F1 Superlicence was denied by the FIA. The Frenchman finally admitted on his personal website that he had indeed been hoping to make his F1 debut in Abu Dhabi, as had been rumoured for some time, but told GPWeek at Rally GB that he was not overly disappointed to be missing his chance: "I am not desperately disappointed at not racing at Abu Dhabi, though it would have been a big pleasure for me," he told GPWeek. "My job is to concentrate on the World Rally Championship. Racing there was not a priority for me but it would have been a great bonus. The rules say I had to ask permission from the FIA and they did not give this." Loeb, indeed, does not fulfil the FIA's critera for a Superlicence, as despite there being a section in the regulations regarding exceptional circumstances, Loeb still does not have the relevant testing experience in an F1 car or single-seater results background to back-up his application. No Abu Dhabi start for Loeb 7