Another Donington deadline missed: will Ecclestone give Silverstone its race back?

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

The fate of the British Grand Prix hangs in the balance
The fate of the British Grand Prix hangs in the balance

Donington Park’s plan to hold the British Grand Prix in 2010 had its doubters from the start, and it looks like they were right all along.

Yesterday Donington missed its deadline to confirm it had the funding in place to complete the building work at the track in time for the race – a deadline that has already had several extensions.

Will Bernie Ecclestone now save the British Grand Prix by giving it back to Silverstone? Or will he confirm the suspicions of those who feared this was a scheme to get the event off the calendar to make room for more lucrative races?

Ecclestone told the Daily Mail:

This is the final deadline – 200 per cent. It’s not good is it? Even if they come up with the money they can’t build the circuit in time.
Bernie Ecclestone

He has changed his position on whether Silverstone could hold the race next year several times. After the Donington deal was announced during the British Grand Prix weekend in 2008 he insisted there was no way back for Silverstone, then conceded earlier this year that might not be the cased, and has changed his mind at least once more since then.

If Donington can’t pull it off, this will be the second time in seven years the British Grand Prix has been promised to a circuit other than Silverstone, only for the deal to fail.

Ecclestone originally gave the race to Brands Hatch for 2002 in a deal with circuit owner Nicola Foulston. But she sold the circuit on the strength of its British GP contract, making millions. The reconstruction work at Brands Hatch wasn’t completed in time and Ecclestone brokered a deal with the circuit’s new owners Octagon to hold the race at Silverstone.

Now we will find out if Ecclestone has anything up his sleeve to keep the British Grand Prix on the calendar – or if he is really interested in sparing it at all.

Damon Hill, president of the British Racing Drivers’ Club, has said Silverstone will take the race back, but not on a one-year deal that might see the race returning to Donington in 2011:

If Donington does not happen, then you have to ask yourself what that says about the decision to look into it in the first place. And in those circumstances it would be nice to think that we could get round a table with FOM and put to bed once and for all the uncertainty over the future of the British Grand Prix.
Damon Hill

Is Hill’s optimism justified or misplaced? Could there be no British Grand Prix next year – for the first time in the history of the world championship? Have your say in the comments.

Keep an eye on Brits on Pole who are watching every move in this story.

2010 British Grand Prix

Update: Stephen Northcott on Twitter suggested I create a Twibbon for F1 fans to show their support for the British Grand Prix – so here it is! Grab yours now:

71 comments on “Another Donington deadline missed: will Ecclestone give Silverstone its race back?”

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  1. Hill’s optimism is non-existent; he was probably being sarcastic! Gallows humour from the president of an organisation and circuit Bernie has always had it in for.

  2. The fact that Bernie has it in for such an historically important and well attended GP is proof of why this man is past his time in F1 and doesn’t care about the fans.

    I have no objections to GPs held in all corners of the world – I hate the Eurocentricity of many F1 fans on forums and would like to see GPs in Africa, India, Asia, South and North America, even Russia. But F1 should retain the great GPs like Silverstone, Spa, Monaco, etc.

    And please put Tilke out to pasture.

    1. Surely the only criteria that ought to matter to CVC Partners who own FOM ( as opposed to the distorted views of Ecclestone )is how the race atmoshere at each venue transmits through the TV screens around the world.

      On that criteria a lot of the newer ( mainly Tilke ) circuits simply can’t cut it.
      Nothing looks worse on TV than a circuit with half empty stands and the cold hard echo of F1 cars racing around a circuit devoid of people.

      Try as the TV outfits might to sound excited and enthusiastic at such empty, windswept places you can tell as soon as you switch on the TV in your sitting room how good or hopeless the atmoshere is at any given circuit.

      And now that the chill wind of recession has hit every country in the world the empty stands are just going to get emptier and emptier.

      Keep the traditional venues where the real entusiasts are! All of them ! Slash the ticket costs and watch the crowds flooding back in !

      1. Bigbadderboom
        11th October 2009, 13:35

        The only criteria that actually matter to CVC is how much return they get from a race, and unfortunatley there are many other benefactors that are prepared to dig deep and pay the ever increasing demands from CVC. The only way this could happen with the British GP is if the government got involved, and they have catagoricaly said that they will not subsidise the sport.
        CVC do not care about the appeal of individual races and recognise that the international TV viewing public will switch on regardless. I actually fear for the short term future of the British Grand Prix, and I never believed that Donnington would be ready, and Bernies assurances this year at silverstone that there will always be a British Grand Prix convinced nobody. I think Bernie has done enormous amounts for F1, but I think he has other venues in mind now and will turn his back on Britain.

    2. Good comments. I dont want to see the F1 races go to other corners of the globe at the expense of the tracks that have made it great. I am not eurocentrist(I am a US citizen) but the great tracks are tha ones in europe first and then other outlying venues.
      And Yes, pleae remove Tilke from a list of track designers that any F1 venue may use.

    3. Well said!! Could not agree more.

  3. Let’s prepare to another race at Silverstone. A very good news, even if I like Donington and I like the modificatons…
    But Silverstone is still one of the best track in the world!

    1. You know the teams (Fota) could hold their own race at Silverstoone regardless, and it not count toward wdc points and watch the ratings, Let a different group televise it and then let the numbers speak for themselves. It might surprise them as well as FOM and CVC.

      1. that’s what i was thinking. I really wish FOTA had formed a breakaway series. it may not have been formula one but it would have been exciting motor racing anyway!
        I think i actually hate BE.

      2. Even if there were no British GP I seriously doubt the teams would organise a non-championship race at Silverstone.

        Some teams have already commented that they don’t want the calendar to increase much more, and they have asked for some changes to be made to next years calendar because Monaco and Turkey are provisionally only one week apart.

        Also judging from some people’s comments that the final race will be boring if the championship is already decided by then, I wonder how many regular viewers wouldn’t bother with a non-championship race.

  4. Before Christmas, Bernie will be seen on photos with some high political leader in London presenting a plan for yet another snoring street circuit along a waterfront that will be oh-so-fine because F1 needs to go were people are…

    Q: Have they already started to destroy the old Donington, or is there still hope for MotoGP races on the “old” track?

    1. Bring it to Liverpool! :)

      Seriously though, 08 capitcal of culture and there’s been massive redevelopment on the waterfront. Plus theres some awesome roads and elevation changes!

      1. Noo North east, Newcastle maybe! :P

        1. too many hills!

      2. BrokenBaculum
        10th October 2009, 17:32

        In all seriousness I’d much rather see the BTCC there than F1. The pits wouldn’t be so much of a hassle.

      3. Stuart Bailey
        10th October 2009, 21:54

        You had your turn at Aintree should not have dug the circuit up

  5. Love how Bernie was so sure about Donnington and ‘no no no Silverstone’ and then Donnington looks to be failing miserably to get the track ready so who does Bernie go to…Silverstone :P
    I hope it goes to Silverstone, I won’t mind a race in Donnington to see how it is and see which one is best. Damon will have to be careful though, unless Bernie completely changes his mind on Donnington and thinks it isn’t worth it then he may just want a short-term deal with Silverstone and if Hill says no to that then there will be no British GP and that situation can be easily avoided.

  6. Prisoner Monkeys
    10th October 2009, 11:14

    I admit, I would like to see Donington get the race. And if they can’t do it, I’d rather there be no British Grand Prix than to see it go back to Silverstone.

    Silverstone isn’t tat bad a circuit; indeed, it’s got some of my favourite corners. But the problem is Damon Hill and the BRDC. For years, they have only been doing the bare minimum required to keep the race. They’re a bunch of stuffy old fools who assume that they’ll have the British Grad Prix because it’s the British Grand Prix, and they need to be taught a lesson.

    Also, the entire section from Vale to Woodcote needs to be re-profiled; it’s just endless chicanes. Maybe it would be better if Formula One ran on the “Arrowhead” configuration, because that change the final single-file complex completely.

    1. I’d agree with all of that (except that I would rather see a Brit GP) but it is just such a shame that because of some disputes or not being able to upgrade facilities is costing the Brit GP. I don’t really see though why there is this big push for facilities, there are some tracks with worse and I wish it was just about track quality more than anything. I also don’t think the gov should give money to the track.

      1. Prisoner Monkeys
        10th October 2009, 14:00

        The circuit itself is fine, though I think everything after The Vale could do with a reprofiling. Abbey is just a chicane and everyting from Bridge onwards is single file. They’re chanigng the layout for the bikes, with the circuit leaving just before Abbey, running all the way back to Maggotts, Becketts and Chapel at a corner called Arrowhead, and then returning halfway through Pirory, which really changes the flow of the section. Of course, when the circuit diverges from Abbey, it’s once again a chicane. It’s as if they can’t help themselves …

        No, the problem is in the facilities. How many times in recent years has there been an upgrade slated for the pits? And how many times have the BRDC actually followed through and done it properly? It seems that Bernie Ecclestone is on their cases every other year to get it done. And then there’s always delays and setbacks and budgetary concerns and the result is that the garages are pretty much decaying where they stand. Think what you will of Mister E., but when someone says something enough times, people tend to start believing it.

        What has the BRDC done for Silverstone? Nothing! They’re more concerned with the history of the sport than they are with the future. They don’t get any work done, they complain loudly when someone moves to light a fire under their bellies and they expect us all to be grateful for it because it’s the British Grand Prix. With an attitude like that, it’s little wonder there are more and more circuits appearing in the Middle East and Asia. Don’t blame Bernie Ecclestone for Formula One going off-shore, blame groups like the BRDC who can’t be bothered to deliver the same basic facilities that everyone else is held to. I know there are people decrying the modern circuit where the facilities and architecture are seemingly given more attention to the track, but if I had to choose between a British Grand Prix at Silverstone with facilities as they are now or a British Grand Prix at Silverstone with facilities like the ones in Bahrain or Abu Dhabi or China or any other new circuit, I’d gladly pick the latter.

        The move to Donington is a kick in the pants that was long overdue for Damon Hill an his cronies. They’re worse than the FIA and FOM; at least the Max and Bernie Show tries to expand and improve the sport.

      2. Agree totally with this post. The way Bernie goes on about it, you’d think Silverstone had a shanty town for facilities. The diminutive dictator wants everyone to roll out the red carpet for him on a visit to Steelandglassland GPs. Yeh, the BRDC haven’t met his demands, but they border on a ridiculous obsession.

        I would love to se F1 cars run on this configuration except to make the entrance to Club faster and make Club itself a 180ᵒ banked corner.

        1. Prisoner Monkeys
          10th October 2009, 15:14

          That’s the “Arrowhead” configuration, though I recall the turn away from Abbey being a chicane, not a plane ninety-degree right.

          And banking will never happen.

    2. I agree with that completely. If the British GP is to return to Silverstone, it needs to be taken out of the hands of the BRDC. They, not Bernie, are the ones responsible for this mess.

      1. Agreed with that but the Brit GP cannot just be lost, it’s a shame because usually a threat is what works but it is a nightmare for fans. Of course better facilities would be fantastic but I can’t realistically see change happening soon and I’d ratyher just put up with it and enjoy the track. I don’t blame Bernie but both parties do have a responsibility. It just mneeds to be sorted one way or the other, some clarity would be nice.

  7. I was at Silverstone last weekend – what a great place. Admittedly it was almost empty, so you could drive around everywhere (including up onto the spectator banks) and pick your spot. But we have to have a British GP, it’s unthinkable that there wouldn’t be.

  8. We need a British GP otherwise my girlfriend will be forced to kill me! She couldn’t make it this year due to university exams and was absolutely gutted so I promised I’d take her next year instead. Oh dear lol…

    1. Drive down to Spain? But it is a shame if we lose the Brit GP, it’s one of those places where there just is that passion and love of F1 and a good track to back it up.

      1. Better off driving to Belgium, it’s closer and the track’s better!

        1. And the weather is way better… no, wait :D

      2. Yeah I know exactly what ya mean! Because I couldnt take my girlfriend, I ended up taking a mate of many years. He’d never been before and hardly ever followed F1 but said it would be stupid to miss an opportunity that he might never get again.

        Needless to say, the passion of Silverstone just got to him completely and he loved every minute of it!

  9. Bernie just needs to swallow his pride and give a nice long contract to Silverstone, or a 5 year deal at least.

    From the moment I saw the person behind the Donnington scheme (i.e. Gillet) I knew he wouldnt get it right. He looks like the dodgy door-to-door salesman who’s trying to cop you off out of thousands of pounds. Well, I say looks like, it appears he’s doing it!

  10. Let’s skip Silverstone and go back to Magny Cours. Far more exciting circuit.

    1. Mussolini's Pet Cat
      10th October 2009, 14:31

      Have you had a blow to the head??????

      1. How about keep Silverstone and add a race at Paul Ricard? Oh wait, Bernie won’t pay with his own funds to host a race!

      2. Agreed ! Magny Cours ???

        How about Laguna Seca ?

      3. or several????

  11. Knock Hill…… now that WOULD be FUN ! :)

    1. Mussolini's Pet Cat
      10th October 2009, 14:35

      lol Wonderful idea. F1 cars are so narrow now, they might just fit. OK, maybe not..

    2. yeah!! Maybe you need to “Knock Hill”, knock Damon Hill on his head before its too late :P

      1. Well, at least you could guarantee a wet race :)

  12. I wouldn’t be surprised if B.C. Ecclestone did a deal with Brands Hatch in 1999, and last year with Donington, for them to host the British Grand Prix, with a clause that states that, if the track owners aren’t able to make it, they have to pay FOM a certain (large) amount of money, with the British GP just returning to Silverstone again.

  13. Mussolini's Pet Cat
    10th October 2009, 14:33

    I surprised you lot haven’t cottened on yet, but Ecclestone just makes it up as he goes along…. No one knows where the next British GP will be, not even Bern.

    1. Actually we don’t give him credit where its due – he has cleverly devised a system which if successful results in a “better” track and “better” facilities. If unsuccessful then he makes loads from the failed tracked probably still paying some fees – and still it all goes back to Silverstone where he makes his usual annual sum of money.

  14. Well I was always really sceptical that Donington would ever actually host the GP, but I just read yesterday that Joe Saward seemed to think that the work was finally on schedule- and Joe Saward is usually right when it comes to F1. So now I’m confused…

  15. Sadly I wouldn’t be surprised if there is no British GP next year. The deadline for Donington has been extended several times, and if they don’t sign a contract with Silverstone soon they may not be able to host it either just because it has been left to late to arrange it.

  16. Well, thought I’d toss in a comment, for what it’s worth.

    What has the BRDC done for Silverstone? Nothing! They’re more concerned with the history of the sport than they are with the future. They don’t get any work done, they complain loudly when someone moves to light a fire under their bellies and they expect us all to be grateful for it because it’s the British Grand Prix. With an attitude like that, it’s little wonder there are more and more circuits appearing in the Middle East and Asia. Don’t blame Bernie Ecclestone for Formula One going off-shore, blame groups like the BRDC who can’t be bothered to deliver the same basic facilities that everyone else is held to.

    I must seriously disagree with much of what has been said here. The BDRC are a membership organization, rather than a for-profit company. The BRDC simply can’t spend the millions of dollars that other “Bernie-friendly” venues spend to make Bernie happy. They can do only what they have funds for, and when viewed in that aspect, they have made headway in meeting Bernie’s demands for upgrades at the facility. Even Bernie commented this year at the British GP that he was pleased with the upgrading that had been done.

    BRDC, as I said, is not a for-profit company(or shadowy group of filthy-rich investors) with unlimited funds, they have no one person that can slam down a fist at a board meeting and say “get this done!” .

    It was said that BRDC are too much concerned with the history of the sport. If that is a bad thing, then why do I see so many comments on this blog damning the Tilke tracks and longing for a return to tracks no longer on the schedule?

    And history is an integral part of Formula 1, as is tradition. As is continuity and regulation. Formula 1 is so concerned with maintaining the status quo in some respects that there are even articles that specify the number of towels for each driver in the staging area for the podium and the exact placement of the bottles of champagne on the podium.

    History is an important part of Formula 1, and BRDC is nearly as old as FiA itself, being only some 20 years younger. They have done much over the decades to benefit motorsport in general, as well as Formula 1. Yet many, Bernie being notable in this, have no respect for BRDC or their efforts.

    And the total blame for so many dates going “offshore”, in my perhaps not so humble opinion is Bernie’s greed. He’ll take F1 wherever pays him the most money. Period. And the others be damned.

    From back in the 80’s, it was obvious to many of us that good old Bernie had a plan—his own plan, some said in an insulting way. Even as he fought for the teams in the FISA/FOCA Wars, some grumbled that there was more going on that could be seen.

    More’s the pity, those folks were right. Bernie wound up with a hundred-year death grip round the neck of the goose that lays the golden eggs.

    Forget the billion-dollar VIP suites that Bernie demands, the racing is about the track and the drivers and the cars. Somewhere along the way, many seem to have forgotten that. The “basic facilities” that Bernie demands at a venue these days is more about the VIP suites that anything else. And his complaints about Silverstone’s garage I believe is more a smokescreen than anything else. Gives him an excuse to book one more Grand Prix in Wheretheheckarewestan, that will pay him the billions he needs to pay off his & CVC’s debt.

    For those of us that were there in the 70’s and 80’s(and some before that), it isn’t hard to understand the motivation–the need–for Bernie, and for Max, each in their own way to dominate Formula 1. I understand it, but that never meant I liked it. Simply put, it’s like the old saying-“those that can, do[race]–those that can’t, teach[govern]”.

    Bernie himself seems to actually have a problem with the historical circuits in F1. Seems like he is always finding some reason to dump them. FiA’s genesis was in France, their headquarters is still in Paris–how can there not be a French Grand Prix chiseled into the schedule for eternity ?!?!?!?!

    Ferrari is the only constructor, the only team, to ahve been in Formula 1 all 60 years. How could one imagine not having an Italian Gran Prix?

    And how can there not be a British Grand Prix?

    1. I was going to reply at length, but this comment just nailed it.

      All I’ll say is that there are literally dozens of fans complaining about the boring Tilke tracks attended by 3 camels and a stray dog funded by governments that don’t care about racing and are just throwing millions away to improve their country’s image.

      Silverstone is full EVERY Grand Prix weekend and the track is a challenging historic circuit which the drivers love. Who cares about wonderful facilities? I don’t want to stay in the hospitality suite. I want to be by the track listening to the roar of the engines while chowing down on a hot dog. I’m sorry if I’m the kind of fan that Bernie doesn’t want, but if he keeps sending them to countries with no motorsport heritage, he won’t have any left.

      1. To dsob and James G
        BRAVO!…well said gentlemen.

        IMHO….2 British GPs,2 North American GPs and 2 in France.We the fans want OUR sport on OUR grounds and we will continue OUR tradition.I don’t have anything against racing all over the world,that is the glamour that is F1.But also,keep the sport firmly founded in its roots or it will die.Bernie will be the death of F1 if he is not out soon.

        1. James G and Wesley, I think your comments are awful and full of the Eurocentricity I hate (see my comment above). I too want the traditional tracks kept and Tilke to go, but I see no harm in spreading the F1 sport all over the world. I think your attitude is dreadful.

          1. Sorry, but you’re completely misrepresenting my position. Please find a quotation that says that I don’t want Formula 1 spread around the world. I love Interlagos, Melbourne and Montreal. Are all these circuits in Europe? No. What they do have in common is that they have great fans, a great atmosphere and a great heritage of motorsport.

            In Turkey, they got just over half the people for the whole weekend that Silverstone gets for Friday practice. In China, they had to bus people in to make it look half full. In Bahrain, the grandstands were basically empty.

            I have no problem with Formula 1 being taken around the world, but if you’re advocating dropping Silverstone and its 300,000 fans to have a GP on some terrible track in the middle of nowhere with 15,000 people, then count me out.

          2. As James G already said:

            ” Please find a quotation that says that I don’t want Formula 1 spread around the world.”

            …and as I said:
            “I don’t have anything against racing all over the world,that is the glamour that is F1.”

            I simply wish to say that Bernie is uprooting the foundation of formula 1 by losing its heritage.You really should read more carefully S Hughes before you flame someone.

    2. But Ecclestone Doesn’t call the shots !

      He’s just a ( very loud ) megaphone with a long cable attaching him to his masters CVC Partners. His job is to bully and frighten people into submission so that CVC partners can continue to reap their vast profits from F1 at whatever cost.

      Fans…..irrelevant !
      Tradition……irrelevant !
      Serious racing…. irrelevant !

      Ecclestone is on record as calling F1 a TV show, and that’s all it means to him and his bosses.

      1. So you agree with my point.

        Ecclestone is the representative of all that is destroying F1.If he agrees with the plans,carries out the plans and is the face of the CVC then we can say that he represents what is destroying our sport.(sorry,…TV show)

    3. Gives him an excuse to book one more Grand Prix in Wheretheheckarewestan, that will pay him the billions he needs to pay off his & CVC’s debt.

      So true!

  17. petrolheadted
    10th October 2009, 16:21

    Following on from dsob.
    The BRDC are continually getting stick about the GP. The circuit and facilities are as good as many on the list at present and better than some. The BRDC would no doubt be delighted to improve and expand on them but they have to be given the opportunity to make the profits needed. The club does not and cannot distribute profits to th Members (who are also the shareholders) Any profits made from whatever source are reinvested in to the Circuit and the “Rising Stars” and Young Driver etc awards. However the ONLY source of revenue is the gate money. ALL TV and media money,on Track advertising, even,I believe, things such as programmes are taken by Bernie at FOM. They have to provide a free area for The VIP Paddock Club from which Bernie nets several million pounds from EVERY GP. So the many millions already being paid by the BRDC to Bernie for the privilege of staging the GP can only be funded by us enthusiastic suuporters paying for our tickets. On the current rent and at the current ticket price the event just pays its way in a good year and makes a reasonable profit in a sell out year. But no way can it earn enough to allow the investment of £50 million or so to make the circuit a Shangai or Abu Dhabi Tilke boreospecial. On top of that they are now being asked to pay an uplifted rent of several more millions. How much can we guys pay for our GP pleasure. Significantly more than at present. I think not. EVERY other GP – except, of course, Monaco what price their facilities! – presently on the calendar is underwritten by the central or local governments of the country. Whilst billions are put into Wembleys etc our sport is regarded as elitist and awash with money. So no support from PM Brown although the motor sport industry developed off the back of British excellence employs thousands and is a top ten earner for th Uk. Heres to a long term return to Silverstone with the circuit afforded the opportunity to generate the profits needed to provide the facilities that Bernie claims to want and which we the BRDC would be delighted to provide

    1. petrolheadted
      10th October 2009, 16:25

      Just noted I deleted a sentence at the end which had said “we the public and the BRDC would be etc. In deleting it I missed the “we”. I would stress I am not writing for or on behalf of the BRDC!!. Just a GP fan!!

    2. Full kudos to you and dsob. I’m glad you touched on the matter of making money through ticket sales. Everyone I know who’s gone to Silverstone has said how expensive the tickets are compared to other places. Now I know why; it’s not just rip-off Britain, they actually need to be that high. I don’t think the Government should get involved but it has done in places where it shouldn’t have, and even in the places it had full right to (Olympics) it has, as usual, ended up driving up costs magically. It seems only fair then that the Government should pay Silverstone half of what it would expect to recoup in ticket sales, with half of that money going to the circuit for investment and the other half to subsidise ticket prices.

      1. Of course, this scenario only works if the costs to the taxpayer does’t run into the tens of millions of pounds ;-)

  18. I don’t think Bernie will let the British GP go away. I don’t think he is in any way sentimental, but he as much as everyone else, wants there to always be a British GP. Having said that, I believe he wants to be able to dictate the terms, whether the GP is held at Silverstone in ’10 for only one year and then over to Donington, ot an extended stay at Silverstone. it seems he doesn’t like negotiating with BRDC for all of the reasons stated in the other posts. Remember, he runs the show, but he does have fiscal responsibilities to CVC. He is the big man, (no pun intended), but he is actually an employee too.

  19. Nothing gets F1 in the news like saying the British GP is under threat. It’s happened this way for years. Why would now be any different?

    We need another scandal and once that’s died down this will come back to the fore.

    For what it’s worth as a driver I really dislike Silverstone, as a spectator it’s not much better. What it does have of course is it’s rich history with tendrils that reach into every aspect of F1. Both now or sometime from the past.
    Brands Hatch on the other hand is a much better circuit in both respects but it seems is never going to get another look in.

  20. This Ecclescake has gone way past its sell by date. It leaves a horrible taste.

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