British Grand Prix to skip a year in 2010? They said that about San Marino…

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

San Marino's hopes of a Grand Prix return in 2008 were dashed
San Marino's hopes of a Grand Prix return in 2008 were dashed

Bernie Ecclestone was widely quoted yesterday saying:

If the work at Donington is not finished in time, we would be happy to skip a year. I don?t want to lose the British Grand Prix ? that?s the last thing we want to do, but we aren?t going to Silverstone for sure.

I’m not in the slightest bit confident that if the British Grand Prix disappeared next year we would be likely to see it on the calendar again soon.

Ecclestone’s latest remarks are a climbdown from his words to The Times two weeks ago when he said:

If they were to do what they should have done, and what we’ve been asking them to do for five years, we’d have to have a look at it. We’ve got nothing against Silverstone.

But if the British Grand Prix were missing from the 2010 F1 calendar, would it be any more likely to return in 2011?

I’m not sure. When the San Marino Grand Prix was dropped after 2006 mayor Massimo Marchignoli declared his intention to get the race back in 2008. But, despite extensive modifications to the track, it never happened. Instead in 2008 F1 gained a second race in Spain and a new event in Singapore.

On Monday the Department for Culture, Media and Sport responded to a question in parliament about the future of the British Grand Prix:

Ministers continue to discuss the hosting of the British Grand Prix with various parties and I recently visited Donington to discuss progress with the owners.

It is the Government’s ongoing wish to see a British Grand Prix in this country and we continue to facilitate and support this where we can.

There continues to be no sign the government intends to support the race in any material way.

Donington Park boss Simon Gillett has finally begun to release information about the debenture scheme but details are still rather limited.

With so many doubts over Donington’s ability to hold a race next year, using Silverstone on a contingency basis makes a lot of sense. With six of the ten F1 teams based in Britain it is already the cheapest round for them to attend.

It may be hard to believe that the home country of the present world champion and current championship leading team and driver could be at such great danger of losing its F1 race. But FOM’s revenue from hosting Grands Prix is largely unrelated to ticket sales, so it matters little to them whether the grandstands are full or not.

I will be at the British Grand Prix this year – if you’re going and want to meet up read this post in the forum.

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48 comments on “British Grand Prix to skip a year in 2010? They said that about San Marino…”

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  1. they could always ring montezemolo he’ll have the best show in town next year.

  2. Rockingham Speedway!!!!

  3. Aaron Shearer
    13th May 2009, 8:00

    Since Bernie seems so desperate to have the Grand Prix at Donnington Park, Let him pay for it, I don’t think that’ll happen anytime soon. There is a perfectly good Silverstone track just down the road which he could use until Donnington get their troubles sorted.

    That’s very strange about Imola; I’ve always wondered why it’s not returned to the calendar. Anyone know why?

    1. yeah i love Imola too, i want it so badly back to the 2010 calendar instead must-be-boring Donington. maybe Bernie was getting too hard (on money) to put Imola back in?

    2. F1 didn’t and doesn’t need two races in Italy, it doesn’t need two in Spain either in my opinion. Imola was neutered after 1994 and the layout and width of the track mean it is not really that suitable or conducive to good racing anymore, I imagine the pit and paddock is barely adequate as well.

  4. I wonder if FOTA would organise a ‘non-Championship’ Grand Prix at Silverstone…

    1. Your idea is even better than you think, If a non-championship GP were granted the teams could use it for testing new equipment and parts. I think they would jump at the chance.

    2. No chance. I’m not against non championship races but Bernie Ecclestone is and he has the contracts to prove it.

  5. James Bolton
    13th May 2009, 8:30

    I mentioned this after the Ferrari/ FIA article but it also fits well here: Will we have a Championship without the British, German and French Grands Prix, and without Ferrari, next year? It shouldn’t be allowed to happen, it wouldn’t be Formula 1 anymore.

  6. Remember that Imola’s renovation work wasn’t actually completed until last year – the WTCC round last season was the first major event to take place at Imola since the upgrades started. So that could partly account for why the San Marino GP never returned.

    The BRDC are bound to use the FIA’s “historic GPs clause” to bring the race to Silverstone next year if Donington isn’t ready. But that will just vindicate the fact that they’ve been sitting around for the last ten years with no intention of doing anything other than trading on their history, so I’m not necessarily for that option.

    1. Oooo good points.

  7. Scott Joslin
    13th May 2009, 9:22

    The only thing I am not sure about here is did San Marino actually have a contract for the race to return in 2008? I think it had expired for after 2006’s race. Where as Donington has a contract for the race and I believe that takes them up to 2017.

    But I am sure Bernie can rip that up if the place looks like a pig sty like it did last weekend when I was there for the Masters Series.

  8. Spa missed a year and it came back. I fully expect to see a Grand Prix at Silverstone next year. When Bernie says its red hes betting black.

    1. mp4-19's world of nonsense
      13th May 2009, 14:50

      only if its in Asia

    2. True, Spa came back. When they’d redesigned the whole back of the circuit. :(

  9. As a tax payer I have to agree about the Government not giving support.

    However, the Government did upgrade the main road outside Silverstone after Bernie’s previous complaints (although I’m not entirely sure the two are linked). Now Bernie has moved the GP elsewhere and again wants the Government to chip in.

    Even if the Government did provide support what sort of guarantee have we got that the British GP will stay around long enough to really justify the expense.

    1. Scott Joslin
      13th May 2009, 16:28

      But are you fine with your tax going to pay for the Millennium dome, Wembley Stadium, Olympics bid etc! Why cannot F1 have a some support in the same way?

    2. Because, Scott, do you want your hard-earned tax revenue going directly into the pockets of Bernie and his buddies at CVC Group, after they have treated Damon Hill and the good people in the BRDC like dirt for all these years?

      F1 is the world’s best motorsport and one of the world’s best sports, but the business model it uses is 100% unfair to the host venues and whoever is playing the bills. I’d have a fit if a USGP was brought back on taxpayer money, and I stand in support of those of you in Britain who feel the same way about the pounds you bring home.

    3. But are you fine with your tax going to pay for the Millennium dome, Wembley Stadium, Olympics bid etc!

      Brilliant, truly outstanding post.

      do you want your hard-earned tax revenue going directly into the pockets of Bernie and his buddies at CVC Group

      Also a very good point but have you been to Millenium Dome?

    4. K,

      No, I have never been to the Millenium Dome, or anywhere else in the UK as of this time. I very much hope to visit London in the next few years, but have not been there yet.

      All of the reports I have seen on the dome have billed it as a tremendous waste of taxpayer’s money, so that’s how I link it in here. I should note that I would feel much better about taxpayers funds if the business model was more fair to the involved parties- in this case, the BRDC.

      Then again, if Bernie’s policies were more fair, we probably woulden’t be having this conversation, and a slew of F1 venues- stretching back several decades and from many different nations- would not have disappeared.

  10. i think the government has quite rightly baulked at coughing up money for a sport that appears awash with it. Sport does need its history, it needs ferrari, it needs Spa, it even probably needs Bernie Ecclestone and he needs to be careful not to dilute a sport that has really lost its way since the 1960’s

  11. Hi Keith

    Would be a shame if the only Donington we ever get, is a simulation of the track. I hope it can all be worked out.

    One thing that puzzles me though, and maybe a topic for one of your great reports? WHY does Bernie seemingly hate/detest Silverstone so much? Listening to and reading what he has said about the possibilitiy of it going back to Silverstone, Berie says no way, never ever….

    It almost sounds like that he hates it so much, that even if Silverstone Did pay him everything he wants, he still would’nt go there.

    So what happened that created this rift?

    1. mp4-19's world of nonsense
      13th May 2009, 14:51

      Simple, Silverstone didnt fit HIS image of what a Grand Prix venue should be. Never mind the history of the place & the track, just think of the money!!!!!

  12. I agree that the Government should not subsidies the British Grand Prix.

    There is no reason why Silverstone couldn’t host it next year if needed except that Bernie doesn’t want the race there.

    Bernie criticises the BRDC for not upgrading the facilities at Silverstone but it’s his own fault for making hosting a Grand Prix unprofitable. The BRDC quite rightly doesn’t want to risk its future on investing large amounts of money on something that won’t make the required returns.

  13. So let’s say F1 skips britain next year and then Donnington fails all together is Bernie gonna swallow his pride and give it back to silverstone? Or are we gonna lose the British grand prix for some time to come like USA CANADA FRANCE etc….

    1. scunnyman, Bernie has publicly said he’d rather lose the British GP than go back to Silverstone. And with bigger things on his plate right now (like FIA v FOTA), he may actually do just that.

    2. My thoughts exactly amigo- let’s home it dosen’t come to that!

  14. Anonymouse – Bernie wants the British GP only if it’s all fancy and “5 star” grandstands etc.. Bernie hates the smell of hotdogs and burger vans. He probably hates all the campsites and would prefer everyone turned up on race day in limos and helpicopters.

    Silverstone, has a really nice BRDC grandstand and then that’s it. The other facilities are average in comparison to the new Asian \ Middle East circuits.

    AS far as I am aware, the BRDC will not borrow large sums of money to build brand fancy new facilities at Silverstone. They will not allow any other private investment to take part ownership of the circuit to invest in the facilities.
    I don’t blame the BRDC for this. Why risk everything just for F1 as they know they cannot reclaim enough in tickets sales to cover the investment.
    This does not sit well in Bernies view and as they haven’t shifted to meet his demands for this level of investment, over many years, he’d rather hang them out to dry than help them.

    Donington on the other hand have gone for borrowing huge sums of money to build a fancy “5 star” circuit, so Bernie loves them.

    I actually like Silverstone, and I have been there many times, twice for a F1 GP. I have seen vast improvement over the years considering what money they get. Mainly through the cost of those burgers!
    Compare Silverstone to other circuits in Britain and it really does have the best facilities in my opinion. I’ve been the Brands Hatch \ Rockingham the next two closest choices. Both are good but not quite there.

    Either way, I just want a British GP. I don’t care where in Britain. Even Knockhill if it had to be. I wouldn’t mind travelling to Scotland for a GP.

    1. Off course, Scotland has produced our share of British F1 drivers, not to mention champions!!

  15. With all due respect to bernie and his five star standarts, my visit last year to Monza was more like a 2.5 stars venue. Getting to the race track, the grandstands, the food, nothing to write home about. Bernie – its wake up time, global financial crisis means we all have a budget, and unless you wanna lose all the formula 1 fans you better get a grip and focus on whats important (its not all about the posh and the glammer).

  16. Despite the money being pumped into the running and jumping games I would rather the Govt. didn’t give money for re-doing the track(s) as it will just go into Bernie’s pocket.

  17. Donington Park boss Simon Gillett is missing a trick by not releasing regular updates to the press and fans. He is making this whole episode much harder than it should be by not doing this thereby allowing the media to speculate wildly and in most cases negetively. This is a relatively easy wrong to right…

    1. Scott Joslin
      13th May 2009, 17:29

      Chaz, I am not sure he has anything to tell the fans, other than making things up things really have not moved on other than digging a big hole in the track – they still don’t even have the money to back the programme.

  18. Call me a mercenary globalized capitalist consumer if you will but I’m not sure I really care if there is a British GP and yes I am from the UK born and bred. Firstly it’s cheaper for me to go to Hungary. Secondly I watch races on TV anyway where I can be sure to see most/all of the action. Thirdly after going to Silverstone a couple of years ago I vowed never to go again because apart from the race itself the whole experience was appalling. The only thing I have to say in favour of the event is that Silverstone is a great circuit that produces great racing but since we weren’t gonna go there next year anyway I’m not sure it really matters.

    If the government were to help fund a better event at Silverstone or a new better circuit however I wouldn’t object, it would be an improvement on spending money on arms.

  19. Unlike Spa’s absence in 2006, Imola was never guaranteed a return to the world calendar for 2008. I know Imola opens the pleas to nostalgia that F1 fans love to appeal to, but it was a **** track that was pretty much a permanent circuit’s version of Monaco. It was tight and no one could hardly pass without making a visit to the pit lane.

    It was pretty as hell, but I’m certain the only reason we’ve seen it as late as 2006 was because of Ferrari’s popularity with Schumacher. Sometimes it’s best to move on.

  20. They said that about San Marino…

    Yeah, and the USGP as well. Feel my pain England! All joking aside F1 without a British GP will not be F1 at all. Unthinkable.

    1. Exactly right GeorgeK. In the most recent case for a USGP venue, Tony George was reasonably sure he could secure an F1 return in 2009. As we can see, not only is there no USGP, but we’ve lost a fine event in Montreal as well.

      In the meantime, Indy is running a MotoGP round (which TG was planning to do anyway) and it’s way less headaches than Bernie used to provide. Perhaps Silverstone saw the logic in that when they signed up MotoGP for the near future….

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