The British GP is in jeopardy for next year due to the schemes hatched by F1’s very own dottering old man. This saga has taken a few twists and turns over the last year, but we will do our best to lay out the process that started with Bernie’s displeasure with Silverstone and ends with Bernie making the statement earlier this week:
“The contract they have is the contract we like. We are not prepared to charge less. Do we need a British Grand Prix? No. I want a British Grand Prix, of course, but we are not going to do special rates for Britain.”
So here we go.
Over the last several years, Bernie has bashed Silverstone with every opportunity. Numerous threats were made to Silverstone that they would lose their race if they didn’t pay a higher sanctioning fee or update their facilities.
This culminated in Donnington Ventures Leisure Limited (DVLL) getting a 17 year contract to host the British Grand Prix last year. At the time the contract was signed though, there were numerous concerns that DVLL was a high risk proposition as they didn’t have the funding to make such a deal, nor did they display a workable plan to go about getting said funding. Further, their plans for hosting the race involved shutting down a local airport and using trains to get attendees to the track, since the infrastructure around the track could not accommodate such a high volume of traffic.
Numerous issues have come up in the last year that continue to shed poor light on DVLL. The Weathercroft family which owns the track has threatened to take DVLL (their promoter) to court for unpaid lease on the track. An issue which Pitpass reveals has not fully been settled.
The tracks monetary issues were further complicated by the cessation of racing activities at the track, which at least provided some revenue stream to DVLL. Since DVLL started tearing up the track to prepare for the 2010 race, it cannot be used for racing. Further, Moto GP has moved its race from Donnington and rescheduled it for Silverstone for 2010.
Almost 2 weeks ago, DVLL was declared in breach of their contract with FOM since they had not shown how they were going to fund the cost of facility upgrades and sanctioning fees. This gave DVLL a further 14 days to remedy the breach or the contract would be broken. This prompted DVLL to have to post a bond issue early last week, which failed to bring in the necessary funds since most investment houses classified it as an enormously risky investment.
All the while the British Driver’s Racing Club (BRDC) has been standing in the background with a knowing smile. Damon Hill (BRDC President) stated last week:
“Silverstone will be delighted to help assure the future of the British grand prix provided that a commercial deal which makes proper sense can be reached with the commercial rights holder who, to a large extent, is dictating the agenda in this matter. There has been ongoing dialogue on this score for quite some time, but we are not blithely assuming that Silverstone will automatically hang on to the British grand prix.”
Hill went on to state that any contract must be commercially viable and must be a long term deal. Who can blame them.
Bernie has made it painfully clear that the contract he is willing to sign is the exact same contract that Silverstone sees as commercially unviable. Can’t blame Silverstone for balking on that one. FOM doesn’t have some monopoly on being the only game in town that makes money off of their little circus. Silverstone is rightfully holding out for a better deal since they got jacked around by FOM with this whole Donningtion fiasco, and for the simple fact that their window to sell tickets has been significantly shortened by this mess.
But lets chalk up another mark in favor of Silverstone getting this race back. The past two world champions have been British, and the whole island may show up on Bernie’s doorstep and demand a race. If the attendance at Silverstone this year was any indication, the British fan is ravenously passionate about the success of their countrymen on the track.
Personally, I think this was another of Bernie’s well designed schemes but it kinda blew up on him. He signed a 17 year contract with DVLL, even though he knew their prospects were shaky at best. He figured if they make it work, he gets his crazy sanctioning fee and he doesn’t have to deal with Silverstone. But if it didn’t work, all the better because that would free up spots on the calendar for Korea, Abu Dhabi, Rome and Russia and all those other places that are just dying to give Bernie $35+ million for a race. Then Bernie could pin the loss of the British GP on DVLL.
What Bernie didn’t account for was two British world champions since he signed the deal. Proceeding with his alpha plan may not be as attractive as Bernie initially thought.