Thursday, July 10, 2008

British Grand Prix Moves To Donington? Maybe...

Last Friday, while Victoria and I were watching Friday practice at Silverstone, Bernie Ecclestone announced that as from 2010 the British Grand Prix would be moving to Donington.

This upset me. I have been watching the British GP at Silverstone for years and it is the circuit I associate with the race. I know all the corners and now we have been for the past 2 years Victoria and I know all the best places to sit to watch the race. Silverstone has been hosting the British GP for 60 years on and off!!!!

Why does it have to move? Because Bernie Ecclestone says the facilities are not good enough and he has been threatening to take the race away for years unless they improved.

Maybe the facilities are not the best but Brazil has worse facilities at their circuit and in Canada this year part of the circuit was crumbling away and all Bernie could say was that it 'was the same for all the drivers'. Double standards?

You have to remember also that in other countries the government pours millions into F1 to build the circuit and pay for the GP. At Silverstone the GP is hosted by the BRDC (British Racing Drivers Club) who own the circuit. They had to pay Bernie £11 million this year just to host the race. That is just about what they got for the tickets! They don't even get a cut of the advertising as that goes to the FIA or one of Bernie's companies. They also have to pay for the upkeep of the track and they are also supposed to improve facilities. All this with no external help.

The government refuses to help Silverstone as they see F1 as such a rich sport. They also refuse to pour money into what is essentially a private venture, taking no notice of the prestige the race provides or the £40 million that the race is worth to the local economy. They would rather pour billions into the Olympics which is a one off event that will leave us with many white elephant venues after the games have left.

So, why could Silverstone not be improved? Well it has been. There is better access now on the A43 (I have to admit that this was government funded but only because of much local outrage that the entire area ground to a halt during the GP). They have also improved the pit wall and the grandstands as well as building extra seating. They also finally got planning permission to build a new pit lane and paddock which will cost them £30 million. These things take a long time because the circuit does not make much money from the race, yet they need to invest what they do make into the improvements, so they need to have a race to pay for the improvements and have the improvements to continue to have a race.

As I said, last Friday it was announced that the British GP would be moved to Donington as apparently Bernie has given up on waiting for Silverstone to improve.

Do not think however that Donington is a shining example of how a racing circuit should look. It is about 1 mile shorter than Silverstone and so will have to be greatly altered to increase the length. There is not enough room for an F1 pit/paddock complex due to the design of the track and the grandstands are small, old and falling apart.

When the announcement was made that the GP was moving it was suggested that funding for these improvements was already secured and that the building work was ready to start. Later on we discover that there is no money just yet and that they do not have planning permission.

Other issues could include the access road to Donington. A single carriageway road (the A453) which will have to be widened. This will mean people will have to be moved and their houses demolished.

Donnington is also very close to East Midlands airport which is not good as the F1 teams and TV crews use a wide variety of radio cameras and microwave transmitters, as well as pit radios that are all very close to the frequencies used by air traffic control. This has to cause problems.

Will the airport also like having all the roads nearby clogged up for an entire weekend meaning all their customers can't get to their airport? I think not. They are likely to fight the planning permission which will cause more delays.

So, will Donington host the 2010 British Grand Prix? I don't think so. I do not believe that it can be ready in 2 years time.

Unfortunately Bernie Ecclestone says that if there is no Donington there is no British GP. I am hoping he is just bluffing.

A few years ago he told the world that he GP was moving to Brands Hatch and that Silverstone was finished but that all fell through. I am hoping he is doing the same now. He is British for god's sake. Surely he has some national pride and wants there to be a British GP no matter what!

Here's hoping Silverstone keeps the GP for many, many more years.

4 comments:

Chris said...

Aye

Tracy said...

I agree wholeheartedly with everything you say Christian. Very well thought out article you have written there. You should be a journalist :) For BE it will just be about the money - does he not have enough? It should be about the race, and the spirit and essence of the event. Maybe some Premier league football players (pah) could contribute some of the £40K a week that they earn (and their wives spend in Juicy Couture) to the 'keep it at Silverstone' campaign. You could even call the new pit lanes after Wayne Rooney !!!!!

Christian Briddon said...

Your football based ideas are all good in theory but I think the most important thing to remember is to keep anything football related away from F1!!! I was even annoyed last weekend when I saw some people at Silverstone wearing football shirts!!

I don't want my favourite sport corrupted by my least favourite sport.

To compare the 2 think of Lewis Hamilton and Wayne (Monkey-boy)Rooney as the current wundurkind of their respective sports.

Lewis Hamilton is cool, well spoken, intelligent and bloody good at his job.

Wayne Rooney is a pig ugly moron who can not string together more than a few words and who is playing for a team that fails to qualify for Euro 2008.

They are an excellent metaphor for the difference between F1 and Football.

Victoria said...

In the words of Shakespeare - they are both classed as (sports)men, as fine hounds & mongrels are classed as dogs!

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