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Ecclestone and Silverstone - The plot thickens

NEWS STORY
11/08/2008

The deal to bring the British Grand Prix to Donington in 2010 came as a surprise - to put it mildly - to almost everyone in Formula One. Since it was announced, conspiracy theories have been flying that Bernie Ecclestone only agreed to the deal safe in the knowledge that the circuit may not be able to get itself up to scratch in time which would mean that the race could be scrapped for a higher-paying event. Now news has come to light which gives the saga a typical F1-twist.

Pitpass' business reporter Chris Sylt is currently on an F1 fact-finding mission to Monaco and whilst there he came across some news which has greater significance back in Blighty. The fruits appeared in the Daily Mail on Sunday and revealed that Silverstone's owners the British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC) offered Ecclestone a stake in the circuit to persuade him to keep F1 there.

Of course, Ecclestone turned down the offer but the article adds that he may yet be interested if he was offered full control of the circuit. This is likely to set conspiracy theorists' tongues wagging. Could the Donington deal have been done to force the BRDC into a position where they offer their prize asset over to Ecclestone? A not too dissimilar precedent was when the Istanbul Park circuit came under Ecclestone's wing after it ended up in hot water following a fine due to the behaviour of local officials on the podium.

Ecclestone has made a sport out of criticising Silverstone but the business is now doing better than ever. Its latest accounts show that the circuit made an after-tax profit of 1 million in 2006 which may not seem much but considering that the profit for the entire F1 Group was only 3 million, the boost to the bottom line which it could bring might be most welcome. The circuit itself is valued at 61 million which is also far from small beer.

Sylt suspects that Ecclestone isn't angling for Silverstone since his business model depends on circuits paying him vast sums to host races. The last thing Ecclestone wants is to be the one paying those vast sums - Istanbul seems to be an exception.

However, if the keys to Silverstone turned up in Ecclestone's mail with the proviso that the GP stayed there then who knows. With the sharpest business mind in F1 Ecclestone would be one of the last people to turn down something for free.

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