Formula 1 would suffer huge damage if the British Grand Prix is lost from next year's calendar, claims McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh.
Amid continued uncertainty about the future of the race, with no official news from Donington Park about the state of its plans for next year, there are now concerns that the race may not be a feature of the 2010 schedule.
The situation is far from clear after a report in Britain's Daily Express newspaper on Wednesday suggested that Donington Park leaseholder Simon Gillett had paid outstanding money to Bernie Ecclestone – although it was not clear whether or not this had been completed before close of business on deadline day. Furthermore, Silverstone sources have indicated that the track will only commit to a deal with Bernie Ecclestone if the commercial terms make sense – and the two parties remain some distance apart on the finances so far.
Silverstone's managing director Richard Phillips will be present at this weekend's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to try and make progress on a deal with Ecclestone to secure the British GP's future. However, until that deal is done, question marks remain over the event – something that has left Whitmarsh worried about the state of play.
"It's not just McLaren, but everyone in F1 knows the importance of the British Grand Prix," said Whitmarsh. "You couldn't say [of the races] any are absolutely vital, but losing the British GP would be massively damaging to the sport. It's the kind of support from the fans there. It's different to other places.
"You just have to walk through the campsites and the area around the circuit and see how committed the fans are. We'd be very sorry to see it lost."
British Racing Drivers' Club president Damon Hill said about the state of negotiations over a new contract: "The BRDC [which owns Silverstone] have to sign a contract which makes sense and can't sign up to a contract which could get them into the same dangers as Donington. Silverstone is not responsible to provide a grand prix, and it's not Bernie Ecclestone's job to give a discounted race to Britain."