Silverstone loses British Grand Prix
On its 60th anniversary, there is little to cheer for Silverstone with the news it dreaded as Bernie Ecclestone took motorsport's biggest event away from them. The Formula One supremo had constantly warned that the historic circuit's standing as the home of the British Grand Prix, since 1948, was under threat with a new deal unlikely after 2009 unless it improved its facilities. Silverstone, the permanent British GP fixture since 1987, will build a new pit and paddock complex in the first phase of a multi-million pound redevelopment next year, but it will be too little too late for Ecclestone as he awarded Donington Park the Grand Prix from 2010. The decision comes as a massive blow for the British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC), which owns Silverstone, on the eve of the home Grand Prix this weekend. A spokesman said they were disappointed by the news and will make a further statement after discussing the matter further with Formula One Management and the FIA. "The incredible staff here at Silverstone will continue to make this year's sell-out event a resounding success for the fans," he said in a statement. Ironically, Donington Park, which last hosted a GP in 1993 when Ayrton Senna triumphed in the European Grand Prix, will be spending £100 million (Dh728m) over five years to meet F1 standards. Ecclestone, the president of Formula One management, accused the government of not supporting Silverstone as he signed the new 10-year deal with Donington Park. "I am sorry we could not have helped Silverstone to raise the money to carry out the circuit improvements and run Formula One," he said. "I believe the government should have supported them, which would have cost probably less than 0.002 per cent of the government's commitment for the Olympic Games. "We wanted a world-class venue for Formula One in Britain, something the teams and British F1 fans could be proud of. "The major development plans for Donington will give us exactly that. A venue that will put British motor sport back on the map. Max Moseley, the president of motorsport's governing body, the FIA, was relieved the future of the British GP had been made secure. "After many years of patient, but fruitless negotiation with the BRDC, we are delighted that Bernie has nevertheless been able to ensure that the British Grand Prix will keep its place on the F1 calendar," he said. "We understand that the development programme planned for Donington will achieve the very high standards we expect from a modern F1 circuit. Finally, British fans will get the venue they deserve." Donington's owners Simon Gillett and Lee Gill were "extremely proud" to have clinched the deal. "At the beginning of last year when we acquired the circuit, we made clear our commitment towards realising the full potential of the Park by making the necessary investments that will see Donington revitalised," they said. In another announcement, the Australian Grand Prix will remain at Melbourne's Albert Park until at least 2015, but the start of the race will be delayed until 5pm in order to secure the event for the next seven years. No artificial lighting will be used for the term of the contract. Ecclestone said: "I'm satisfied that the decision to move to [a] later start time for 2009 is a win for television audiences in Europe and Asia, a win for Melbourne and a win for Formula One as a whole."
Published: July 4, 2008 04:00 AM