The British Grand Prix will make a surprise switch to Donington Park from 2010, the FIA has announced.
Rumours about a possible Donington bid for the race had circulated in recent weeks amid the continuing uncertainty over Silverstone's future as a Formula 1 venue, but this morning's announcement that a 2010 deal had been secured still came as a shock.
“Finally the uncertainty is over," declared Bernie Ecclestone.
"A contract has been signed with Donington Park and the future of the British Grand Prix is now secure.
“We wanted a world-class venue for Formula 1 in Britain, something that the teams and British F1 fans could be proud of.
"The major development plans for Donington will give us exactly that: a venue that will put British motorsport back on the map.”
The 2.5-mile Leicestershire circuit will require substantial redevelopment to bring it up to F1 standards.
Although Donington hosted the legendary 1993 European Grand Prix and is still the venue for the British round of the MotoGP world championship, its facilities are not on a par with modern F1 tracks and it has been criticised by the MotoGP fraternity in recent years.
Silverstone held the first world championship F1 race in 1950 and has been the sole home of the British GP since 1987, having previously alternated with Aintree and then Brands Hatch.
But its future has been in question for over a decade, amid regular criticism of its facilities from Ecclestone, and turbulent negotiations between his Formula One Management organisation and Silverstone's owner the British Racing Drivers' Club.
“After many years of patient but fruitless negotiation with the BRDC, we are delighted that Bernie has nevertheless been able to ensure that the British Grand Prix will keep its place on the Formula 1 world championship calendar," said FIA president Max Mosley.
“We understand that the development programme planned for Donington will achieve the very high standards we and FOM expect from a modern F1 circuit.
"Finally, British Formula 1 fans will get the grand prix venue they deserve."
Silverstone had recently received planning permission to proceed with a huge redevelopment programme that it believed would bring its facilities up to the standard that Ecclestone demanded.
But its future had also depended on finding sufficient outside backing, and Ecclestone was critical of the British government for not providing Silverstone with this support.
“I am sorry that we could not have helped Silverstone to raise the money to carry out the circuit improvements and run Formula 1," he said.
"I believe that the government should have supported them, which would have cost probably less than .002 percent of the government’s commitment for the Olympic Games.”
It is believed that the Donington revamp will be carried out using private financial backing.