F1 commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone has issued Silverstone with an ultimatum – sign a deal within the next 48 hours, or the British Grand Prix will be definitively pulled from the 2010 world championship schedule.
Following the failure last week of Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd (DVLL) chief executive Simon Gillett's final bid to keep alive Donington Park's chances of honouring the 17-year deal it had agreed with Ecclestone's Formula One Management (FOM) company to host the blue riband
event on the annual UK motorsport calendar, negotiations for Silverstone to retain the race stepped up a gear.
However, the Northants circuit's owners the British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC) and Ecclestone have never been the easiest of bedfellows – arguably what led to him contentiously stripping the track of the grand prix and handing it to Donington in the first place on the eve of the 2008 edition – and the stumbling block in discussions remains money, with the BRDC unable to meet the 78-year-old's financial demands, given that in contrast to the plethora of new circuits springing up across the Middle and Far East, Silverstone is not state-funded.
Ecclestone, though, has now stepped up the pressure in the game of hardball, warning the BRDC that if they don't agree to the offer sitting on the table – understood to be an annual fee of £12 million, subject to a yearly increment of seven per cent – by the end of the week, there will be no British Grand Prix at all, with no further room for compromise.
“They say there is not much between us and them, so they should sign,” the British billionaire told the Daily Express
newspaper. “Maybe they have lost their pen, but if they don't find it in the next day or two then that is it. I will pull the race off the calendar and there will be no British Grand Prix to argue about.”
It has been noted that whilst Gillett and Donington were granted a succession of extended deadlines, the BRDC and Silverstone – which has the almost universal support of drivers, teams and fans alike – are being treated far less generously.
Along with Monaco, Belgium (Spa-Francorchamps) and Italy (Monza), the British Grand Prix at Silverstone is one of the only remaining races to have featured on the original calendar when the F1 World Championship officially began all the way back in 1950, staging the inaugural event on 13 May.