Bernie Ecclestone has revealed that he is in talks with Simon Gillett to 'try to help' to find an investor to save the British Grand Prix, following yesterday's bombshell that Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd (DVLL) is being sued by Donington Park circuit owner Tom Wheatcroft – but the Formula 1 supremo insists that whatever happens, 'there is no question of us going back to Silverstone'.
Donington was controversially granted a ten-year contract to welcome the blue riband
event on the UK motor racing calendar by Ecclestone last summer, and is due to take over from traditional host Silverstone in 2010, but there has been considerable criticism and scepticism regarding the financial backing – or lack thereof – behind the £100 million redevelopment necessary to bring the venue up to F1 standard.
Whilst Gillett has repeatedly insisted that there is no cause for concern, the latest hammer blow – following previous hitches including persistent planning permission delays, delayed announcements, the cancellation or postponement of events on safety grounds and the sudden departure back in September of his business partner Lee Gill, who has since filed for unfair dismissal – could turn out to be a fatal one.
Wheatcroft & Son Limited has initiated legal proceedings against his company DVLL for alleged unpaid rent arrears to the tune of almost £2.5 million, and is endeavouring to reclaim the 150-year lease on the track that it awarded Gillett in 2007 [see separate story – click here
Ecclestone – a man famously of little sentiment when it comes to retaining the British Grand Prix, a mainstay of the world championship calendar every year since its official inception back in 1950 – has admitted that he is 'trying to help' Gillett to raise sufficient funds to complete the ambitious project, and has refused to rule out taking up the lease himself.
“Let's see what happens, shall we,” the 78-year-old billionaire – a close friend of Wheatcroft – is quoted as having said by The Times
. “At the moment, it's all speculation. I haven't thought about it.
“I don't know what the situation is. I don't know what the details are. Maybe Tom is wrong and the other people are right. Maybe they don't owe that money, but I'm not worried. I don't worry about anything to be honest with you.
“I've been in talks with Simon Gillett and we've been talking through the money situation. I'm trying to help him sort things out. What he really needs is an investor – that's the best hope of saving the race.”
The Formula One Management (FOM) commercial rights-holder was also critical of what he perceives as a lack of 'effort' in Britain – and is absolutely adamant that should Donington prove unable to fulfil its obligations to host the grand prix, then it will not be returning to Silverstone, which has hosted the event on 42 occasions in the past 59 years. Ecclestone has had repeated rows with Silverstone owners the British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC) in recent years. The Northants circuit is set to stage its final F1 race – for the time being at least – on 21 June.