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. 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?

    • James G said on 10th October 2009, 16:20

      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.

      • Wesley said on 10th October 2009, 18:48

        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.

        • S Hughes said on 10th October 2009, 20:04

          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.

          • James G said on 10th October 2009, 20:52

            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.

          • Wesley said on 10th October 2009, 21:12

            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.

    • 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.

      • Wesley said on 10th October 2009, 22:36

        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)

    • 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!

  2. petrolheadted said on 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

    • petrolheadted said on 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!!

    • 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.

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

  3. 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.

  4. pSynrg said on 10th October 2009, 17:12

    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.

  5. John H said on 10th October 2009, 17:26

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

  6. Brian said on 10th October 2009, 18:14

    I don’t know if the weather in Britain would be conducive to this idea but I have an idea. Donnington, Silverstone, and Brands Hatch. I’m sure they would all love to have a race held their. So this is my idea.
    In 2010, the race goes to Silver. But, two pre season races are held at Brands Hatch and Donnington. Obviously this would mean and introduction to a form of pre season, but I think it would be great for the fans. I know that you British folks love your racing and that the stands would be full for all three of the races.
    The following year, the actually race could be held at Donnington and the pre season races held at Silverstone and Brands Hatch, then the year after that the race is held at Brands Hatch and son on anon.
    Eccy would never go for it, it is too fan oriented and would make everyone too happy.

  7. wasiF1 said on 11th October 2009, 2:02

    I wonder what is going to happen.If Bernie wants the U.K GP in Silverstone then will Hill wants it there for 1 year only.

  8. JHunt said on 11th October 2009, 3:44

    Guess Bernie learned something from Nicola Foulston and pulled a quick one on Simon Gillete, oh well gotta pay your tuition..

  9. Canteen said on 11th October 2009, 7:10

    It’s good to know Silverstone will be there next year

    And Kamui Kobayashi will be there too replacing Glock from Brazil

    A spinal injury at the back, is it true?

  10. They could use the Huddersfield ring road. Nice corners, hills, a tunnel, straights and plenty of traffic lights all ready in place!

  11. was thinking earlier, a bit off topic i know, but bernie could see whazts hazppened with the football and make televised races ppv. anyone else think he could turn around and do this?

    • If I remember correctly I think it was Ecclestone who said quite a few years ago that F1 would always stay on free to air TV rather than satellite TV because of the increased exposure for sponsors etc, so hopefully it will never go pay per view.

  12. Can someone kidnap his hot daughter to hold hostage until he agrees that Silverstone is back on from next year? Of course, I’ll hold her at my place until he agrees ;)

  13. zerogee said on 12th October 2009, 4:20

    Not wanting to say I told you so, not wanting to say I told you so, not wanting to say I told you so.

    Next up, USF1’s ignominious first (and probably only) year….

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