Archives for posts with tag: Bernie Ecclestone

Donington Park, October 2009 © J. Moy / Sutton

The British Grand Prix has been saved and we can all breathe a huge sigh of relief. By the time the new deal runs out, if it goes to its full length, I’ll be in the latter half of my 40s. While that may not mean much to many of you, to me that seems like a bloody long way away. Hell, I’m not even 30 yet.

A 17 year deal for Silverstone is great news for British motorsport and of course for British motorsport fans. It’s also a great deal from the perspective of the sport itself, for Silverstone is one of the drivers’ favourite tracks of the year. The proposed changes, which had been due to be made for MotoGP’s arrival in 2010, will go some way to bringing the track into the 21st century and should simply enhance the circuit as the alterations will not affect any of the opening half of the circuit which is so adored by racers.

But although yesterday’s news will be greeted with almost universal approval by the motorsport community, on reflection it has also, through no fault of its own, confirmed a very sorry state of affairs.

Let us not forget that next season was supposed to signal the return of Formula 1 to Donington Park. The revamped, redesigned circuit was supposed to become the new home of British motorsport and of the British Grand Prix. It was to be, in the words of then FIA President Max Mosley, the type of circuit that British fans deserved.

Today however, the circuit lies in ruins. Literally.

The circuit modifications, essential for the hosting of the Grand Prix, were started but never completed. Simon Gillett, the wideboy-esque boss of Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd ran out of money and ideas, renovation work was suspended, the rights to host the Grand Prix were lost and the administrators were brought in. What remains of Donington Park today is little more than a building site. A once wonderful racing circuit, which sat high up the order of racing favourites not just in the UK but in Europe for drivers at all levels, is now unusable.

MotoGP has gone to Silverstone. Formula 1 will remain at Silverstone for the foreseeable future. F2 will not be back at Donington. Neither will Superleague. Indeed, if the lease is not bought and the track repaired, it seems unlikely there will be any racing at all at Donington Park in 2010.

How sad it is that just weeks after the passing of Tom Wheatcroft, the man who restored Donington Park from ruins to racing, the track into which he poured his heart and soul now lies in tatters.

So, while it is right that we celebrate the confirmation that Formula 1 will stay in Britain for the long term and at the wonderful Silverstone circuit, yesterday’s announcement may also have signalled the death knell for one of this country’s favourite race tracks.

One hopes somebody with a big enough pocket and with sufficient passion and foresight is able to take hold of the lease and return Donington to its former glory, let alone shape it into an all singing, all dancing mega-track for the 21st Century. If my sources close to Donington are correct, it’s going to cost over £4 million to simply get the track back into a state where you could drive a full lap.

Regardless of the continuation of F1 in this country, it would be a genuine tragedy if the foolish mistakes of one man should ultimately serve to have robbed us of one of the great racing circuits.

The British Grand Prix will stay at Silverstone until 2026, it has been announced, after the BRDC agreed terms with Bernie Ecclestone on a 17-year deal to keep Formula 1 at the self-styled home of British motorsport.

Both parties have agreed on a get-out clause which comes into effect after ten years.

The BRDC has confirmed that it intends to run the Formula 1 Grand Prix on a new circuit layout, initially designed for Silverstone’s hosting of MotoGP in 2010 (pictured above). Work will also begin after Christmas on a new pitlane and paddock, which the BRDC intends to complete in time for the 2011 Grand Prix.

“The FIA have been to see it, it has been submitted for homologation and we hope to be running on the ‘arena’ circuit next summer. If not we can run on the current circuit,” said Silverstone MD Richard Phillips.

BRDC President Damon Hill has long admitted that Silverstone had only been willing to hold onto the British Grand Prix on the right terms, but was clearly delighted to have ensured the survival of the British Grand Prix after Donington’s inept failures had called into question the very future of the event.

“It is not easy to enter into a contract of this magnitude and you have to take on a lot of responsibility, but the BRDC wanted this relationship to continue.

“Everyone was well aware that the British GP is not just a sporting event, but it is dynamo of the industry in this country. Losing it would have been damaging and perhaps there would have been no coming back.”

It is understood that new FIA President Jean Todt was instrumental in pleading the case of maintaining the British Grand Prix to Ecclestone, and thus hope of a return for the French Grand Prix and the safety of F1’s traditional heartland in Europe in the future must be high.

The return of the Canadian Grand Prix to the Formula 1 calendar in 2010 appears to be all but officially confirmed, after reports in Canada suggested that Bernie Ecclestone has reached agreement with the race organisers and has given the green light to the running of the race.

The executive committee of Montreal and the Canadian Secretariat of Intergovernmental Business (SAIC) will meet on Wednesday to give the final OK which should, according to La Presse be “a formality.”

The deal will bring F1 back to Canada for five years at a combined cost of $75 million ($15 million per season). Canada’s capital city Ottawa will provide $5 million a year, with the Quebec region, in which Montreal rests, paying $4 million a year. Montreal itself will foot $1 million a year, which leaves a $5 million shortfall.

This $5 million will be raised by the introduction of a special tax on hotels over the race weekend.

The end of the negotiations have seen Ecclestone make an incredible cut in price for the hosting of the race, ultimatley settling for a figure $100 million lower than his original demand.

Fans, teams and those who follow Formula 1 will be worried by the special tax however. While Montreal is one of the most popular races of the season, hiking tax rates for the duration of the race weekend will not go down well. As Formula 1 enters a new era in which costs are intended to be brought under control, increasing costs on those attending races in order to allow nations to host those very races could prove to be a gravely misjudged error. And with the Quebecois government understood to be taking home 30% of the revenue from ticket sales, there could be little sympathy for them.