Just days after confirming that he would allow a little extra time for it to get its financial plans in order, Bernie Ecclestone has warned Donington Park that there will be no more leeway in its bid to snatch the British Grand Prix from Silverstone.
In another twist, however, F1's commercial supremo has also backtracked on his claim that Silverstone would be the natural replacement, suggesting again that the British Grand Prix was not a fixture on the expanded 2010 schedule.
Having faced awkward questions about the Renault 'race fixing' affair, Ecclestone wasn't prepared to pull punches when a BBC
interview turned to the subject of Donington Park, openly hinting that he was running out of patience with the circuit's efforts to get its F1 bid back on track after a series of hiccups. Earlier this week, he confirmed a period of grace beyond the initial end-of-September deadline in an effort to allow Simon Gillett enough time to finalise the necessary financial arrangements that would cement the circuit on the 2010 calendar.
Donington is currently in the midst of a five-year £100m makeover to bring it up to F1 standards, and this week ended its 2009 season to begin the major works needed to alter its track layout. Gillett has repeatedly dismissed questions over the venue's ability to stage a grand prix, despite a series of legal, planning and building problems that have dogged it since being granted a contract to replace Silverstone.
While the circuit insists that the necessary paperwork and finance is now in place to press ahead with the redevelopment - which includes new facilities as well as an updated layout - Ecclestone has warned that time is fast running out for progress to become evident.
"Donington has had 'a bit more time' three times," he told the BBC
's F1 coverage, "They can't have much more."
Addressing concerns that no tickets have yet gone on sale for the 2010 British Grand Prix - where Silverstone usually makes places available within days of the previous event being wrapped up - Ecclestone surprised his interrogators by suggesting that Silverstone was not
necessarily the alternative - despite having given assurances to that effect at June's UK round, and again including the circuit on the provisional 2010 schedule.
"If it's going to be Silverstone - and there's no guarantee it will be, if it's not Donington - they want to get on, get the race prepared, and sell tickets," he admitted.