The 'will they, won't they' saga involving Silverstone, F1 commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone and the future of the British Grand Prix
looks to be nearing a definitive conclusion at last – after the Formula One Management (FOM) chief executive gave the British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC) one final deadline before the race is 'pulled' from the 2010 calendar.
Refusing to lower his financial demands, Ecclestone has warned Silverstone and its owners the BRDC – with whom he has rarely seen eye-to-eye, particularly over matters regarding money – that he would have no compunction whatsoever in removing from the schedule one of only four remaining grands prix that also featured on the original calendar back in 1950, when the F1 World Championship officially began.
The 79-year-old billionaire has offered traditional host Silverstone effectively the same 17-year deal that Leicestershire rival Donington Park failed to meet – at a yearly fee of £12 million, rising by seven per cent per annum – but the two parties have yet to come to an agreement to guarantee the future of what is undoubtedly the blue riband
meeting on the UK motorsport calendar.
British newspaper The Times
reports that the BRDC is endeavouring the come up with additional funding to seal the deal, but Ecclestone has insisted that should no resolution have been reached by the time the FIA World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) next meets in Paris on 11 December to ratify the 2010 calendar, he will have no option but to scrap the race.
“The World Council will meet and we will just pull it off — we will have to,” he underlined, albeit refuting accusations that he doesn't care whether the British Grand Prix
is on the schedule or not. “We'll have no other choice, if we don't have a contract. We shouldn't have anything on the calendar unless we have a contract in place.
“They are close and they know they are close. It's not the terms and conditions so much, as whether the investors are prepared to bankroll them and take the risk.”
“Of course we want a British Grand Prix. I've been spending an awful lot of time trying to make sure it does happen, but there is no chance of an exceptional contract for Silverstone. Why should there be?”
Ecclestone's comments were broadly corroborated by BRDC President and 1996 F1 World Champion Damon Hill, who sought to explain that the sincere desire is to find a solution to enable the British Grand Prix
to go ahead in 2010 – but not at any cost.
“The club does not want to sign up for something that puts it in peril,” stressed the Englishman, adding that in his opinion governing body the FIA should intervene to help secure the race's future. “Bernie doesn't care whether you lose your shirt or not — he wants to deal with someone who can take a chance.
“We saw what happened with Donington (whose lease-holders DVLL earlier this week went into administration), so there is a point at which it becomes a fine line between signing a contract or not.”