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

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:

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

  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. S Hughes said on 10th October 2009, 10:33

    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.

    • 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 !

      • Bigbadderboom said on 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.

    • Martin said on 12th October 2009, 1:33

      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.

    • DASMAN said on 12th October 2009, 17:47

      Well said!! Could not agree more.

  3. David said on 10th October 2009, 10:33

    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!

    • Martin said on 12th October 2009, 1:36

      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.

      • neracer said on 12th October 2009, 10:32

        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.

      • 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?

  5. Steph90 said on 10th October 2009, 10:56

    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 said on 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.

    • Steph90 said on 10th October 2009, 11:25

      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.

      • Prisoner Monkeys said on 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.

      • 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.

        • Prisoner Monkeys said on 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.

    • 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.

      • Steph90 said on 10th October 2009, 14:30

        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. LewisC said on 10th October 2009, 11:38

    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. Woffin said on 10th October 2009, 11:50

    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…

    • Steph90 said on 10th October 2009, 12:58

      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.

      • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 10th October 2009, 15:16

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

      • Woffin said on 10th October 2009, 23:12

        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. James said on 10th October 2009, 12:00

    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.

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

  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 said on 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.

    • 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. Ned Flanders said on 10th October 2009, 14:50

    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.

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