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GP Week : Issue 152
BRIEFLY » While some questioned McLaren’s decision not to run either of their race drivers during last week’s Mugello tests, the team were confident enough in their decision that they arranged for Jenson Button to appear at a Budapest demo on what would have been the first day of testing. Tens of thousands of fans turned out to watch Button drive his McLaren through the centre of Budapest as part of a wider sponsorship event. Over the course of the day, the British driver could be found completing high-speed runs and doing donuts in front of the Hungarian Parliament. » While this week’s rumours of a proposed Silly season got an early start this year, with the Spanish and Australian media talking up a rumour that sees Mark Webber moving to Ferrari. “There’s a whole season ahead of us before we need to think about the future,” Webber said when questioned about the rumours. “One day the talk is about Jenson, then it’s Sergio, now it’s me. I haven’t signed anything. My focus is on this team. We have had a good start to the season, we’re only four races down and the road is very, very long before we start talking about the future.” Of course, chatter about job offers from rival teams is one way of managing on-going contract negotiations with your current employers. It might just be coincidence that we’re getting to the time of year when Webber traditionally signs his annual contract with Red Bull, or it might be tactics. Then again, the Aussie didn’t actually deny the rumour, did he? .... Now that a rumoured Qatari investment deal has fallen through, the British Racing Drivers’ Club is in talks with an American consortium over the long-term lease of Silverstone. An unnamed group believed to be from Qatar were given a period of exclusivity in the Silverstone negotiations last autumn. That period has now expired, and with no deal concluded the BRDC are on the lookout for new investors. Last week, a BRDC statement announced that the club was eager to speak to “interested parties” regarding a long- term lease for the circuit, and the Daily Telegraph reported that representatives of ‘Project Penelope’ and members of the BRDC would be meeting to discuss a deal this week. Funded by Guggenheim Partners, Project Penelope is a US-based consortium believed to include Richard Branson’s Virgin Group. They were involved in initial discussions with the BRDC last summer, before the Qatari group were granted their period of exclusivity. While negotiations with the previous bidder appear to have fallen through, the BRDC has no concerns about the future of either the British Grand Prix or Silverstone itself, whatever might happen in future discussions. “W ith or without any investment, the long-term futures of both Silverstone and the British Grand Prix are absolutely secure," BRDC chairman Stuart Rolt said. “If we cannot find a suitable partner, we shall continue with the development ourselves, albeit at a slower pace.” While the BRDC are able to assure the long-term future of the track, the investment money will help the club to keep its planned development work on schedule. The Silverstone project includes hotels, conference space, a business park, and tourist facilities including a welcome centre and museum. To finance this work, the BRDC is offering a 150-year lease on 760 acres of land including the circuit and surrounding area. BRDC IN TALKS WITH US CONSORTIUM OVER SILVERSTONE LEASE Stuart Rolt, BRDC Chairman of the Board 5 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: F1 >>> NEWS