D-Day for Silverstone?

30/09/2004
NEWS STORY

Today is effectively the deadline for Silverstone, and its owners, the British Racing Drivers' Club, in the long running saga over the future of the British Grand Prix.

Formula One Supremo Bernie Ecclestone has given Silverstone until today, midnight to be precise, to agree favourable terms, for the rights to host the British Grand Prix in 2005 and 2006.

Although the BRDC has made an offer to Ecclestone to host the race in 2005 and 2006, he says that the offer falls short of what he wants, arguing that to drop the price would be grossly unfair to Grand Prix hosts who pay the full rate. However, it should not be forgotten that has already received a sizeable compensation package from former promoter Interpublic.

BRDC president Sir Jackie Stewart has met with Prime Minister Tony Blair, seeking government help. However, Blair, still smarting from the serious damage that F1 inflicted on his government - when Ecclestone donated 1m to the Labour Party, allegedly in an attempt to have F1 exempted from the tobacco advertising ban - is unlikely to risk further accusations of dirty-dealing, by politicians and the media.

Silverstone is already under serious pressure from Ecclestone, the Englishman repeatedly saying that he is embarrassed by what is meant to be the jewel in British motorsport's crown. He points to new circuits such as Shanghai, Bahrain and Sepang, claiming that Silverstone is 'third world' and like a condemned house that should be pulled down.

Although some have become immune to the constant bickering over the future of the event, Ecclestone has previously demonstrated that he is fully prepared to play hardball, having dropped Spa (Belgium) from the calendar for one year, and completely axed Austria. Previously, France and Canada both came close to losing their place on the F1 calendar.

Therefore it's quite possible that Ecclestone might drop Silverstone, and thereby Britain, for one year, if only to prove a point. However, he would surely face pressure from teams and sponsors, many of whom are based in the UK.

Although today is the deadline, it's likely that Ecclestone will give the BRDC a further stay of execution. However, the reality is that he is unlikely to drop his price, while the BRDC simply doesn't have the financial resources to raise its bid.

In 2005, Turkey takes its place on the F1 calendar, while several more countries, including India and Dubai are desperately keen to stage rounds of the championship. Ecclestone cares little for tradition, especially when he is feted circuit owners, and governments, waving handfuls of cash.

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Published: 30/09/2004
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