The British Grand Prix could end up being shared between Silverstone and Donington Park if it is the best way to keep the event on the Formula One schedule, according to commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone.
Ecclestone has already suggested that, should Simon Gillett not find the investment needed to complete the overhaul of Donington ahead of next year's scheduled grand prix, the race would return to Silverstone, which thought that it was staging its last British round for at least 17 years when Sebastian Vettel trounced the field in June.
It was a year ago that Donington was handed a shock ten-year deal to stage the race from 2010, with a seven-year extension apparently agreed on the eve of this year's British GP, but the Leicestershire circuit has been beset by problems since earthworks to overhaul the circuit and its infrastructure began, amid fears that the global economic situation would deny Gillett the £80m he is rumoured to require to fund the makeover.
Details of the planned debenture scheme designed to part-fund the transformation are still to be revealed, and Ecclestone has now thrown another curve ball in the IT entrepreneur's direction by suggesting that, should Donington be unable to fulfil its obligations in 2010, it may be forced to share the British GP with Silverstone on a long-term basis.
"If they don't do it, Donington will get together with Silverstone," he told Britain's Independent on Sunday
newspaper, "If Silverstone do all the things they promised me they are going to do, we are going to be at Silverstone [in 2010]."
Although Gillett's Donington Ventures Limited declines to discuss its financial situation, the lack of government support for the F1 event makes the situation more perilous, although Ecclestone's latest suggestion would at least give both Donington and Silverstone a regular break from having to find the fee to host the race. Britain is no stranger to having two F1 venues sharing the country's blue riband motorsport event, having seen Silverstone alternate with Brands Hatch between 1964 and 1986 before remaining in Northamptonshire to the current day.
While other countries have taken up the option of switching between venues, most recently Germany since it was restricted to a single race, the idea of reverting to previous practice does not have universal approval amongst British F1 hierarchy, with British Racing Drivers' Club president Damon Hill adamant that the race should remain under club control at Silverstone.
"I am not in favour of rotating it - in fact, I think it's an insult," he said, "It's another absurd step to try and squeeze as much profit and as much benefit for the commercial rights-holder. It's not a long-term strategy. I'm in favour of the contract for the British Grand Prix being negotiated with Silverstone because I don't believe that the Donington project is viable."
Hill may have cause for concern too, as the German experiment of alternating between Hockenheim and the Nurburgring has not led to the upturn in fortune expected by either circuit. Hockenheim, for a long time the
home of the race, recently admitted that it could not afford to stage the event when its turn comes around again next year, and the Nurburgring - despite the rise of young German talents Vettel, Nico Rosberg, Timo Glock and Adrian Sutil to back up veteran Nick Heidfeld - has yet to confirm whether it would step into the breach, especially without the hosting fee being substantially reduced.