Silverstone has no desire to temporarily reprise its role as host of the UK round on the F1 calendar should Donington Park prove not to be up to the task next year, former world champion Damon Hill has warned Bernie Ecclestone – as the prospect of there being no British Grand Prix on the 2010 schedule at all intensified.
Donington has now been given a final deadline by which to convince Formula One Management (FOM) chief executive Ecclestone that it can adequately welcome the top flight next season and stage the blue riband
event on the British motor racing calendar [see separate story – click here
], as was agreed between the sport's commercial rights-holder and Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd (DVLL) chief executive Simon Gillett on the eve of the 2008 race at Silverstone last summer.
The under-pressure and under-fire Leicestershire circuit was initially granted until the end of September to raise the £80 million that it needs to bring the track and its outdated and cramped facilities up to the required F1 standard in time for the grand prix, which has a provisionally allocated 2010 slot of 11 July, the same date as the football World Cup final in South Africa. However, an extension has now been agreed for the necessary financing arrangements to be put in-place – with The Guardian
reporting that a merchant bank is endeavouring to raise a £120 million bond from wealthy investors.
Whilst Donington has been unwilling to comment on the matter – revealing only that an announcement will be made in due course – Ecclestone has hinted that Silverstone could yet retain the race for another year, but Hill, the president of circuit owners the British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC), has warned the 78-year-old that the celebrated 'Home of British Motor Racing' will not be willing to step into the breach for one year only to allow its rival venue an extra twelve months to get itself ready.
“If the Donington programme comes off, then fine, the future of the British Grand Prix is guaranteed for 15 years, at least on paper,” commented the 1996 F1 World Champion, “but they still have to deliver the race, the circuit and its infrastructure. It's not just a question of raising the money.
“If Donington does not happen, then you have to ask yourself what that says about the decision to look into it in the first place. In those circumstances it would be nice to think that we could get round a table with FOM and put to bed once and for all the uncertainty over the future of the British Grand Prix.”
The BRDC is adamant that a single-year deal makes no commercial sense, and is keen only to hammer out a long-term arrangement with Ecclestone – as Donington grapples with the same problem afflicting most European grands prix of being unable to compete with the figures being offered by Middle and Far Eastern countries for the prestige of hosting a round of the world championship. Abu Dhabi is believed to be forking out some €30 million for the honour of staging its inaugural F1 race around the all-new Yas Marina street circuit at the beginning of next month.
“I absolutely accept that for new 'flyaway' grands prix outside of Europe there should be a premium cost,” acknowledged Hill, “but, by the same token, these new races are tapping into the tradition of long-established races, like the British Grand Prix, which were in at the very birth of the world championship and have been part of the sport's staple diet ever since.”