Sir Jackie Stewart has called upon Bernie Ecclestone's patriotism to ensure that the British Grand Prix does not fall off the Formula 1 calendar post-2009 – urging that if Donington Park is not capable of hosting it, then Silverstone should be awarded the race back again.
There has been much debate and scepticism since Ecclestone and Simon Gillett's company Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd (DVLL) last summer came to a surprise ten-year agreement for the race to move from its traditional home to the Leicestershire circuit, with many doubting whether the venue can be brought up to F1 standard in time to host the country's blue riband
With the facilities and infrastructure – not to mention the short timescale in which the £100 million re-development work must be completed – having provided the chief initial cause for concern, the main issue now would appear to be finance, with rumours of unpaid fees and legal action swirling persistently around the paddock [see separate story – click here
The move to Donington came after years of bitter and protracted wrangling between F1 commercial rights-holder Ecclestone and Silverstone owners the British Racing Drivers' Club, of which Stewart is a former president. The Scot is adamant that the British Grand Prix must not be allowed to disappear into the history books.
“It would be very bad form if it wasn't held,” the 69-year-old told BBC Northampton
. “If Donington couldn't – and I hope they can – but if they couldn't then Silverstone, I hope, would be asked to run the British Grand Prix.”
Stewart has famously rarely seen eye-to-eye with either Ecclestone or FIA President Max Mosley, with at its worst the threat of a court case lingering in the air after the latter described the former three-time F1 World Champion as 'a certified half-wit' – an insult that was taken to be a slight at his dyslexia.
Ecclestone has been outspoken of late that there are no guarantees of a future for any of the current grands prix – with all manner of new countries coming forward with large pots of money in a bid for the prestige of welcoming the world's most glamorous sport – but Stewart hopes that, as a 'proud Brit', the Formula One Management chief executive would not want his legacy to be that of the man who destroyed the British Grand Prix.
“I think Bernie is a Brit and a proud Brit,” reasoned the RBS sporting ambassador, “and I don't think he really wants to see no British Grand Prix. I think that would be a very negative thing on him and the people around him.
“I hold nothing against Donington trying to do it, but I would love to be assured that there will be a British Grand Prix. We have had it since 1950. It's the oldest grand prix in the world and it would be terrible to lose it.”