Leading team principals have come out in support of Silverstone as the financial stalemate between the Northants circuit's owners the British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC) and F1 commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone still shows no sign of resolution – with Ross Brawn arguing that to lose the British Grand Prix would be to surrender a part of the sport's precious heritage.
Following the failure of Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd (DVLL) chief executive Simon Gillett to secure the necessary funding to redevelop Donington Park to the standard that would be required to welcome F1 – thereby forfeiting the 17-year deal that was struck with Formula One Management (FOM) chief Ecclestone on the eve of the 2008 race – Silverstone is now the only option remaining if Britain is to continue to stage a round of the world championship in 2010.
However, Ecclestone and the BRDC – never the most comfortable of bedfellows – are still unable to agree on financial terms, with the former unable to pay what the latter wants to charge, given that Silverstone, unlike many of the new Middle and Far Eastern additions to the calendar, is not state-funded.
Earlier this week, Ecclestone handed the BRDC a 48-hour deadline within which to sign the offer on the table, or else accept losing the British Grand Prix [see separate story – click here
] – an event the 79-year-old has audaciously and controversially suggested the sport can live without. That is evidently not a view shared by leading team principals Brawn (Brawn GP), Christian Horner (Red Bull Racing) and Bob Bell (Renault).
“We saw a fantastic event at Silverstone this year, with the huge support it had,” urged Brawn, under whose expert guidance and leadership the new F1 World Champions rose phoenix-like from the flames of Honda in 2009 to sweep to drivers' and constructors' title glory in Brazil. “I think it was (BRDC President) Damon Hill who made the point, with which I completely concur, that F1 is what it is because of the balance of races it has, the history it has, the heritage it has.
“The reason that F1 as a championship and as a series is so attractive to countries like Abu Dhabi and the new races we're going to is because of that heritage and that history, and if we destroy that, then perhaps we don't remain as attractive for countries in the future. We've got to get a balance between keeping the history and heritage of F1 and the new opportunities we have at fantastic circuits like [Abu Dhabi], so I think it would be a tragedy if we lost Silverstone and I hope Bernie can find a solution with Silverstone to keep the race there. The Donington episode has been an unfortunate distraction, but let's hope that he can find a solution for the BRDC to run the race at Silverstone in the future.”
“You have to consider the difference in resources available to the different circuits,” added Horner. “[The new Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi] has a nation behind it; Silverstone is effectively a private entity. I think Silverstone and the British Grand Prix is a very important and significant part of the calendar. It's a historic race, it's been there since the start of the world championship, it's a great circuit, the drivers love it and it's a local grand prix to probably more than fifty per cent of the teams.
“I really, sincerely hope that now that the Donington bid appears to have stumbled, a solution can be found between Silverstone and FOM, and I'm sure that every effort is being made to achieve that. We would certainly see Silverstone as a great loss from the calendar should it not be there in 2010.”
Brawn and Horner's sentiments were echoed by Bell, who has assumed the role of acting team principal of Renault F1 in the wake of the fall-out from the highly-damaging 'Singapore-gate' race-fixing scandal that cost the heads of the Enstone-based outfit's disgraced former managing director Flavio Briatore and executive director of engineering Pat Symonds.
“I totally agree with Ross in that I think one of the great strengths of F1 is its diversity,” the Englishman stressed, “and it would be very, very wrong to threaten that with an all-new era. That's important and equally, as Christian said, it is the home grand prix for probably the majority of people who work in F1.
“I know how important that is to the ordinary members of staff in the factories that turn out the pieces for F1 and provide the entertainment, and I think it would be a great shame for all of those people and their families if they weren't able to enjoy it locally. I'm a great supporter of it, the team is a great supporter of it and it would be a great shame if it was lost.”