NASCAR

Hopes of British GP fade as Donington deal fails

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ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP)

The chances of Britain staging a grand prix next year depend upon Formula One reaching a deal with the Silverstone circuit, after confirmation that Donington Park will not host a race in 2010.

Donington had been provisionally announced as host for next year's British Grand Prix but efforts to raise funds for the requisite upgrade had failed. F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone confirmed Thursday that there will be no late reprieve.

"There's no Donington. They've missed the deadline, which we kept extending for them," Ecclestone said. "It's unfortunate for them, to be honest with you. It was the credit crunch that caused them to be in trouble because their intentions were good, that's for sure."

Donington, which had a contract to host the British GP for 17 years, could be sued for financial penalties by F1 management for not meeting its end of the agreement. While Donington is clearly not in a position to pay heavy penalties, F1 management might be hesitant to set a precedent of letting hosts out of contractual obligations.

Silverstone appears to be in a strong position to push for a long-term hosting deal, although F1 management has previously warned that a British GP is not sacrosanct and the 2010 calendar could proceed without the country where most of the teams are based.

Already without a French GP - another traditional home of the sport - F1 is gradually moving away from Europe to expand into the Middle East, like this weekend's race at a luxurious new Abu Dhabi circuit, and Asia, which will add the Korean GP next season.

However, the drivers spoke up for Britain and other traditional venues on Thursday, saying they should be kept to foster the heritage of the sport.

"It's very important we have a British Grand Prix," new world champion Jenson Button said. "There's a lot of British fans out there that have been cheering me on. They're not just fans of myself and Lewis (Hamilton), but fans of the sport as a whole.

"Donington would have been a challenge, would have been exciting. It's not going to happen but we have a very impressive circuit to fall back on, which is Silverstone."

BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld said: "It looks like the future of Formula One is where the money is. There must be a race in Britain, most of the teams are based there and it's where the home of motor sport is."

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