More bad news from Donington

Simulation of Donington Park's track in 2010 - will it ever become reality?

Simulation of Donington Park's track in 2010 - will it ever become reality?

Donington Park has had plenty of problems in recent weeks with several races being cancelled. This was because of building work in preparation for the 2010 British Grand Prix encroaching on the circuit?s run-off area.

Now circuit owner Tom Walkinshaw is suing the track operators for ??2.47m in unpaid rent. And the company?s plans for a debenture scheme to finance the race have still not been announced.

When I spoke to promoter Simon Gillett in January he was in a confident mood, having secured the approval from Leicestershire Council to go ahead with building work:

You may have noticed I?ve not said an awful lot until the press until now. That?s because we?ve been thinking about delivery. I?m talking now because I?ve delivered something. I?ll go back into my little box now and you?ll hear from me at the end of March when I say ??here?s the debenture scheme, here?s what it?s going to cost, here?s what you get? and then I?ll get back on with delivering again.

We are now in late April and still nothing has been announced. Rumours persist that one of the banks behind the scheme have withdrawn their support which, given the state of the economy, would hardly be a surprise.

No help from Ecclestone ?ǣ or the government

Bernie Ecclestone has said the event will get no leeway and will not allow the race to remain at Silverstone. Given the recent axing of the French and Canadian Grands Prix it wouldn?t be surprising in the slightest if he let another of F1?s great, historic events die.

He is adamant the race should receive government money, as happens with almost every other race. Perhaps his latest words on the subject were timed to coincide with Lord Astor of Hever asking the House of Lords earlier today whether the government will invest in Britain’s round of the world championship.

The British government has given generously to other events, spending ??9.3bn (??10.43bn/$13.61bn) on the 2012 Olympics (which, since the onset of the recession, now admits it can ill-afford) and ??750m (??841m/$1.09bn) on a football pitch.

But it is unwilling to put money into F1. Perhaps it is still scarred by its early association with Ecclestone, when the Labour government?s post-election honeymoon in 1997 was tainted by the accusation that it accepted ??1m from him to drop its opposition to tobacco advertising.

Alternatively, maybe it does what the rest of us do: which is look at the enormous sums demanded by Ecclestone, and how little the circuits get in return, and conclude it?s a poor deal.

I’m conflicted about whether the government should step in to support the British Grand Prix. On a purely principled level I’m against it – there are far more important things for the government to spend its money on.

But in the context of the gigantic sums spent on other sports for doubtful gain, a few hundred million towards a proper Grand Prix venue and a race contract, given the importance of the UK motor racing industry, seems a rather more sensible investment than a ??750 pitch you (apparently) can’t play football on.

I?ve got my ticket for Silverstone this year. But I?m increasingly worried I won?t have a British Grand Prix to go to in 2010.

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43 comments on More bad news from Donington

  1. I was looking at the 2010 F1 season Wiki page the other day, and it was interesting that there were in total 24 venues touting for a race, I think 16 of those were confirmed.

    Of course the season can’t conceivably accommodate all of those races, so some will have to make way. Looks like we found the race most likely to be jettisoned for South Korea or India then.

    Nice one Bernie.

  2. Oliver said on 24th April 2009, 8:13

    Donington may yet host the British Gp. But from the onset, I always had a feeling, Bernie was just setting things up to move the GP out of Britain. He can get more money else where and there are several new countries with readying tracks but no space on the calender.

  3. Oliver said on 24th April 2009, 8:14

    Exactly Pink Peril. Hosting the British Gp only makes Bernie poorer.

  4. HounslowBusGarage said on 24th April 2009, 9:10

    Indeed, but when Damon Hill and the BRDC were 100% correct in not forking over the millions more to Bernie and his investment partners, the many positive aspects of the race went down the drain in the FOM offices.

    At the end of the day, all that matters to Bernie and CVC is how many numbers are on the check they get to stage the event. That’s why the future of China and Malaysia are never in doubt, while a passion-filled event like the British GP is in danger.

    I think that’s absolutely right, Gman. And in that situation it would be unwise of an unpopular British government, facing austerity, to pay for the Grand Prix and see taxpayer’s money go to the feed Bernie’s apparent greed. Political suicide.

  5. The trouble is that quite a few of the places that hoped for a Grand Prix are facing the bite of the economy and having to scale back on F1 plans. India, for instance, won’t be having a Grand Prix until 2011 at the earliest.

    If Bernie is doing this as a ploy to get a new circuit on the calender, he may find that no such circuit is available when the time comes for him to make the replacement, especially since mid-2010 could well be the turning point of the recession.

  6. Chalky said on 24th April 2009, 10:52

    a £750 pitch you (apparently) can’t play football on

    I guess that’s a few boxes of Evergreen Complete and lawn mower then?

    Given the technology and industry supporting F1 in Britain, then I believe the government should put some money up front for the GP.
    It’s not just the teams based in Britain but all the other businesses here that supply and support those teams. It’s an advert for technical excellence that attracts other engineering opportunities too.

  7. Oliver said on 24th April 2009, 11:10

    The money that goes into the Olympics helps many sports not just one sport like it would be if government gets involved with F1 hosting fees which goes to line an individuals pocket.

  8. Chalky said on 24th April 2009, 11:31

    F1 is more about job creation and leading the pack in technical excellence.

    Olympics is purely sport. Yes, some technical excellence comes from the cycling team but I wonder if they would have this if Britain had no F1 teams? Just curious.

    Would F1 teams move to other countries if Britain loses it’s GP?
    Would other engineering projects gradually move out of Britain?
    Would the best engineers and technical minds follow the F1 teams?

    The UK Gov must not treat F1 as a sport but a business that brings in jobs and is at the pinnacle of engineering. Lose the home GP and lose the teams.

  9. David5 said on 24th April 2009, 11:36

    Would it be so difficult for F1 to break with Bernie/Mosely etc. and start their own F1 series, possibly under the FOTA. It seems to me that Bernie has such a stangle hold over F1 that nothing will improve until their is a breakaway. What is stoping someone starting something?

  10. As a British Formula One fan I don’t want the British Grand Prix to be axed, however I don’t think the Government should step in and finance it.

    Even if the Government wanted to help the British Grand Prix the public finances are in such a mess that they couldn’t justify it. Even before the recession because of Formula One’s image as sport with so much money it would of being hard for the Government to help out, and that is ignoring the controversy about Ecclestone’s £1M donation to New Labour back in 1997.

    Ecclestone may criticize places like Silverstone for not upgrading their facilities but who can blame them when the business model Ecclestone imposes on the circuits mean they make a big loss from hosting a Grand Prix.

    When Donington announced they had secured the rights to host the British Grand Prix my worries were would they be able to get the alterations to the circuit done in time and how would they make any money on the race itself let alone enough to pay back the loans need for all the work done.

    Ecclestone discovered that countries that don’t have any historical connection with Formula One were prepared to pay millions in public money to build a circuit with state of the art facilities to host a race as they thought it would promote their city or country internationally.

    While argument may work in some places, you can’t say Britain, France or the US need promoting, the only case for Government subsidies in these countries is to help the local economy and again I don’t think this would wash with the electorate especially now.

    The problems can be traced back to how the money in F1 is distrusted and we all know who is responsible for that.

  11. Oliver said on 24th April 2009, 12:07

    Formula1 only visits the UK once even if majority of the teams are based here. Teams will still be based in the UK cause pound for pound it does offer more of the skill set required for operating a high performance racing team. And as many have suggested, F1 need not be the only premier motoracing formula. F1 may die very soon if it continues like this. It almost has no heritage anymore, so we might aswell just start off with a new series.

  12. I think it was James Allen who said that he thinks Bernie’s real goal isn’t to get rid of the British GP. Quite the oposite, that he wants to get the rights to it himself by “saving” one of the circuits and hence the GP.

    Whilst I’d dislike Bernie to get his way (ever), on this particular occasion I think that would be the best outcome we could hope for as it would pretty much guarantee the safety of the British GP for as long as Bernie is in charge…

  13. More and more country’s want to have a F1 race, and our so beloved European circuits are paying the price. Becouse the goverments do not wanna pay the same amounts of money that asian country’s want to pay… But why must every circuit with golden pitlane’s and glamour and glitter facilities. Whats rong with brick buildings and grashills to sit on as long the safety is allright…. that brings me to an other question why must we have every year a world champion in football (second best sport) we have a champion one time at every 4 year. why can’t F1 not have a longer season for example 4 years . Just think about that you don’t have 17 races but 50 or 60 races so more F1 circuits to race and less circuits that compete to each other to have a f1 race.
    Side effect , a team have one design for one season (4years) that will be much cheaper so there will be more teams and more cars.

  14. Oh i almost forget…. When is god calling Bernie home !

  15. Jess said on 24th April 2009, 17:42

    To GMAN,

    Thanks for the insight wow that is a joke. Mr. E should get the fee and that is it. The GP Track should get the hotel and other fees wow now I have a better view on why these tracks are going away.

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