F1: Bernie sticks the boot into British government

By Andy Darley

CalendarWednesday, November 21st, 2007

 
 

Bernie Ecclestone has renewed his attack on the facilities at Silverstone, the home of the British Grand Prix – but the target of his fire this time is the government and not the circuit’s owners, the British Racing Drivers’ Club.

The F1 chief, who landed the Labour government with its first scandal in 2000 with a £1m donation, criticised ministers for failing to back the BRDC’s £25m plans to redevelop the Northamptonshire circuit with money of its own.

Speaking at the launch of the official 2007 F1 season review DVD, he said: “Britain is supposed to be the heart of Formula One racing and our circuit is bottom of the list. With a tiny percentage of what the government are wasting on the Olympics, they could support Silverstone.”

He said the fault did not lie with the BRDC: “They know exactly what they have to do. They’ve known for at least five years. It’s not for us to say where the money comes from but it’s strange because most of the events we have now are supported by governments.”

In January, the then Minister for Sport Richard Caborn said Silverstone would be given all the help it needed, with the F1 Grand Prix as just part of a wider redevelopment also involving universities.

He said: “There is some funding there, but it is not just about money, it is about how you get the planning in there. How do you get the development there? how do you get universities there?

“There are a number of areas where a strong partnership between industry, the sport and government are necessary and we are determined to do that.”

However earlier this month his successor Gerry Sutcliffe, while still supporting the scheme, ruled out a financial contribution: “We can’t do that and we’ve not been asked to do that at this stage.”

Aside from the Silverstone question, Ecclestone was also puzzled how the idea of a London Grand Prix on a street circuit seemed to have died a death.

He said: “Things were sorted out very nicely in London. Mayor Ken Livingstone was very helpful and we laid a plan out of what we could do.

“It would have happened, it was just a question of where the money was going to come from. It would cost a small amount compared to what they’re spending on the Olympics.

“If they look at it from a pure business point of view, all the revenue it would bring in, I just don’t understand why it isn’t happening.”

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