Former F1 champion will race for Citroen at the World Rally Championships.
|German driver Sebastian Vettel won the British Grand Prix in June [GALLO/GETTY]|
Uncertainty over the future of Silverstone’s long association with Formula One racing has come to an end after the owners of the track signed a 17-year deal to host the British Grand Prix.
It comes just ahead of the release of the 2010 race calendar, due out on Friday and including a record-equalling 19 races.
Silverstone, a former World War Two airfield, hosted the first championship Grand Prix in 1950 but appeared to have lost out after F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone agreed a 17-year deal with Donington Park from 2010.
That plan fell apart when Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd, now in administration, failed to raise $221 million needed to develop the facilities.
Silverstone has staged the British GP, the oldest race on the F1 calendar, every year since 1987 and continued to plan for the 2010 race even after Donington secured the rights.
“We’ve always had the belief the British Grand Prix was an important cornerstone of Formula One but, with Bernie, you’re never quite sure,” Silverstone managing director Richard Phillips said on Monday.
“At the end of the day, though, you have to have a British Grand Prix.”
Silverstone will now redevelop its track, rebuilding the pit lanes and paddock.
“We’ve always had five-year deals and never been able to get the investment we needed to redevelop,” Phillips said.
“But 17 years gives us the ability to invest and move forward.”
He added that there was a break clause in the contract after 10 years.
Silverstone’s owners, the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC), confirmed the agreement at a news conference in London.
“It is not easy to enter into a contract of this magnitude and you have to take on a lot of responsibility, but the BRDC wanted this relationship to continue,” former world champion driver and BRDC president Damon Hill said.
“The title of Silverstone as home of motor sport has come true. It is a place for all motor sport.
“We are looking forward to the MotoGP as well as the British Grand Prix.”
Britain is home to a majority of the 13 F1 teams while the country has also provided the last two world champions in Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton.
Next year’s British race is due to be held on July 11, the same day as the World Cup final in South Africa.
“It is right that Silverstone should have the Grand Prix and the fact that it is a magnitude of 17 years speaks hugely,” former team owner Eddie Jordan told the BBC.
“Now they can go and develop it and I hope that’s what will happen, they will seek funding from everywhere they can.”