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Ecclestone happy with new Silverstone

As Silverstone’s new 17-year contract kicks off this weekend, Bernie Ecclestone said he is happy with the circuit.

The F1 chief executive has been a staunch critic of the ageing venue, and the sport would have moved away for 2010 had Donington’s plans not fallen through.

But on Friday, the F1 cars laid rubber for the first time on the new ‘Arena’ section, and next year the grid will form up between the Club and Abbey corners, where the skeleton of a new pit and paddock complex can already be seen.

“It’s not really like Silverstone at all, is it?” joked Ecclestone, who once described the modern British GP track as a country fair masquerading as a world event.

“They have done what I was asking them to do for years,” added the 79-year-old Briton.  “All I wanted was for them to bring the place up to the standard we expect for a world class event and they are starting to get there.”

85,000 spectators were at Silverstone on Friday to see the practice sessions, which is more than most of F1’s new international venues can currently only dream of for race-day.

India is set to debut next year, bringing the calendar to 20 races amid rumours there might be up to 24 dates in the near future.

But Ecclestone said: “That (20) is enough, we won’t be going to 24 or anything like that.

“Maybe one or two European races will drop out.  Probably the ones who complain that they can’t afford them.  No race is sacrosanct,” he warned.