The already beleaguered Donington Park has been dealt another blow as it endeavours to be ready in time to welcome the 2010 British Grand Prix – with the revelation that the recently-published Formula 1 World Championship schedule for next season has put the race on the same day as the football World Cup final on 11 July.
The Derbyshire circuit's preparations to host the blue riband
meeting on the UK motorsport calendar have been plagued by setbacks right from the word 'go', ever since F1 commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone announced on the eve of the 2008 British Grand Prix at Silverstone that he had awarded Simon Gillett's Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd (DVLL) company the rights to hold the event from next year onwards.
From the withdrawal of planning permission for the necessary redevelopment to funding concerns, the departure of business partner Lee Gill and the threat of legal action from circuit owner Tom Wheatcroft for an alleged £2.47 million in unpaid rent, Gillett has had to contend with it all over the last 14 months – and now it appears, even if he pulls off what some deem to be the unachievable in getting Donington ready in time to stage the race, it will then find itself pitted head-to-head with arguably the most popularly-viewed sporting contest on the planet.
What's more, England are expected to be amongst the favourites for glory in South Africa 2010 after blazing through the qualifying stages with ease, meaning, remarks Brits on Pole
, 'patriotic sports fans may be forced to choose between Button and Beckham or Hamilton and Heskey next summer'.
Moreover, with the change of venue from Silverstone to Donington, there have been none of the traditional year-on-year ticket sales for the 2010 British Grand Prix, especially in light of all the uncertainty regarding just where the race is going to take place, with the celebrated 'Home of British Motor Racing' remaining ready and on-standby should its rival prove unable to fulfil its side of the deal with Formula One Management (FOM) chief executive Ecclestone. More than three months on from the 2009 edition, tickets are still not yet on sale for 2010 – leaving less than eight months now to promote and sell out next year's event.
However, Gillett insists he is unperturbed by the scheduling clash, and has proposed the idea of erecting big screens around the circuit for fans to be able to remain behind after the race and watch the match – which is due to kick off at 8:30pm local time in Johannesburg (7:30pm UK time) – in a party atmosphere.
The date of the British Grand Prix has been somewhat flexible in recent years, fluctuating between early June and mid-to-late July, with a disastrous decision to move it to April in 2000 seeing thousands of spectators beached in the car parks as the famously fickle British weather did its worst.
To see the 2010 F1 calendar in full, click here