Bernie Ecclestone has insisted that he has 'nothing against Silverstone' and, in the light of Donington Park's latest debacle, has hinted for the first time that the British Grand Prix could
remain at the Northants circuit after all.
Last summer, Formula 1's commercial rights-holder stunned the paddock when he awarded Simon Gillett's company Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd (DVLL) a ten-year contract to hold the blue riband
event on the UK motorsport calendar, taking over from traditional host Silverstone, which has welcomed the top flight on more than 40 occasions since the official inception of the world championship back in 1950.
Donington has only once before staged an F1 event, however – the rain-lashed European Grand Prix of 1993, so famously won by the late, great Ayrton Senna – and its preparations have been consistently dogged by cynicism, doubt and question marks as to just where the money is coming from to complete the ambitious £100 million redevelopment programme to bring the venue up to the required standard in time for next year's race.
The latest disaster to hit the plans came last week, when circuit owner Tom Wheatcroft – who granted DVLL a 150-year lease on the track in 2007 – revealed that he has initiated legal proceedings against Gillett for a reputed £2.47 million in unpaid rent [see separate story – click here
]. Should Wheatcroft – a close friend of Ecclestone's for many years – succeed in his case, Donington's hopes of staging the British Grand Prix would surely be dead in the water.
The Formula One Management (FOM) chief executive has been adamant for some time that he will not allow the race to return to its former home at any cost, urging that 'there is no question of us going back to Silverstone – they have had enough chances and have not delivered what they promised' [see separate story – click here
]. The sport's supremo has had numerous run-ins with the track's owners the British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC), and has repeatedly slated what he deems to be the circuit's out-dated and under-par facilities and infrastructure.
BRDC President and former F1 World Champion Damon Hill, however, has recently intimated that 'there has always been an open line of communication' between the two parties. Whilst denying that any talks have taken place, Ecclestone did suggest that the door to Silverstone may not be completely closed.
“If they were to do what they should have done, and what we've been asking them to do for five years, we'd have to have a look at it,” the 78-year-old told The Times
. “We've got nothing against Silverstone.”