British GP deal 'very close' UPDATE #2 Secretary of State for Business Lord Mandelson has urged Silverstone bosses and Bernie Ecclestone to strike a deal to secure the future of the British Grand Prix.
As talks continue between the two sides at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Lord Mandelson stressed the importance of the race as the totem of an industry worth £4billion per year to the British economy.
However, he once again insisted that taxpayers' money would not be used to help broker an agreement with Formula One's commercial rights controller.
Lord Mandelson told BBC Radio 5 Live's Sportsweek program: "The British Grand Prix is a very important event, it's a much loved British institution and it's got to continue.
"The whole of motor sport is important, not because of the enjoyment it provides but because it's really important for our economy.
"It contributes getting up to £4billion to the economy and if you look at the jobs it creates there are 25,000 engineers involved in this sport in Britain, quite apart from 40,000-odd other jobs, so I have a responsibility to retain it and to support the motor sport industry just as I would any other."
The grand prix was thrown into doubt when Donington, which had won a 17-year contract to host the race, missed a deadline to prove it could raise the £135m it needed for circuit upgrades.
10/31/09 (GMM) Damon Hill on Saturday sounded quietly confident that a deal to safeguard the immediate future of the British grand prix is close.
With negotiations apparently deadlocked prior to this weekend, Silverstone managing director Richard Phillips as well as Hill, the president of the track-owning BRDC, travelled to Abu Dhabi for the 2009 season finale.
"I'm not involved in the discussions but I've been keeping abreast of them -- and we're very close, that's all I can say," the 1996 world champion is quoted as saying by the BBC.
Bernie Ecclestone said earlier at the pristine Yas Marina Circuit that he was not interested in negotiating further with Silverstone.
But Hill added: "Ultimately it comes down to a little bit of give on the negotiations and we're nearly there, but until it's done, there's a bit of nervousness that we might not get there." 10/31/09 (GMM) Damon Hill is set to arrive at the new Yas Marina Circuit on Saturday.
Usually, the appearance of a former world champion at a formula one venue would not be big news, but it is believed the Briton will be acting in his capacity as president of the British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC).
The BRDC owns Silverstone, and its managing director Richard Phillips and other officials of the Northamptonshire track touched down in Abu Dhabi 24 hours earlier.
It is believed they have all gathered for crucial talks with Bernie Ecclestone about the 2010 British grand prix, with talks at a standstill after Donington's race deal also broke down. zzzz
Ecclestone set the mood for the talks on Friday, insisting that the only way Silverstone chiefs could break the impasse would be to "buy a pen" and sign the contract already in their possession.
"We've been negotiating for too long," the billionaire, who is suffering from gout in his foot and moving about the Yas paddock this weekend in a golf buggy, told the BBC.
"That deal is better than anybody else's, so if they don't like it, it's ok," added Ecclestone.