F1: British Grand Prix developments liveblog November 19-December 3
By LJ Hutchins
Friday, October 2nd, 2009
This is the fifth part of our rolling coverage of the saga of where the 2010 British Grand Prix will be held – or if it will happen at all. It covers the period from November 9th to December 3rd, with the oldest information at the foot of the page. You can find the links to the other part of the coverage down there too.
Thursday December 3, 14:45: News! We have news! Or, at least, a blog post from the BBC’s Andrew Benson with the exciting title of “British GP saga close to conclusion”.That’s what we and, we would guess, almost every reader of this post really wants to hear.
He says: “All the indications are that Silverstone is inching towards concluding a deal with Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone” and quotes BRDC president Damon Hill saying he won’t assume a thing until all the signatures are on the contract.
He reinforces the picture that has built up of broad agreement – but the need to negotiate on some of the details. These reportedly define the degree of financial risk that Silverstone is prepared to lay itself open to.
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18:45: Some thoughts of interest in James Allen’s latest blog post. Talking about the myriad things that will have to be sorted out before the World Motorsport Council on December 11, he mentions the revenue-sharing agreement that Ecclestone has arrived at with the promoters of the Canadian Grand Prix.
He says: “The contribution from the local and state government is $15 million (£8.6 million) per year, with a promise of a 30 per cent share of the profits. This model has worked in Singapore, where the government shares some of the risk and benefits if the event is a success. It is also being tried in Germany.”
He adds that this model will work well in Montreal because it is, like Silverstone, one of the best-attended events on the calendar and, like Silverstone, can even fill the stands during Friday practice.
He concludes, however, by pointing out that there is still absolutely no appetite for a publicly-funded F1 event in Britain: “It’s still a hard deal to sell to the British taxpayer, who is already wondering how he is going to pay off the multi billion pound budget deficit caused by the credit crunch. But revenue sharing is an answer. The BRDC changed its rules recently to allow it to work with backers willing to share the risk.”
You can read his full blog post here – the section referred to above is towards the end.
17:30: We note that the press release announcing that Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd is in administration no longer showing in the news section of the circuit’s website.
Monday November 30, 11:00: No news over the weekend – and no news this morning. Who knows what the next week will bring? We are still keeping this thread active, however, and will update it with any news that comes along.
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Friday November 27, 10:15: After a quiet day yesterday the story wakes up again today with a piece in The Express ruling out a rescue bid for Donington coming from Bernie Ecclestone. This follows rumours that he was buying Donington Hall, the country house that adjoins the circuit, which is on land that formed its estate. It is currently the headquarters of struggling airline BMI and the company has recently had to deny rumours that it is about to vacate the premises.
Not in favour of Ecclestone, apparently, who dismisses the idea in one line: “I have not the slightest interest in buying Donington or running the British Grand Prix there. What is Donington Hall?”
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13:15: Remember that delegation of MPs that went along to Silverstone on Monday? They have just issued a statement in support of the race and the venue that could not be worded much more strongly.
Peter Luff MP, chairman of the House of Commons Business, Innovation and Skills Committee, said: “We were overwhelmed by the intensity of opinion, confirming the need to keep the Grand Prix at Silverstone.
“British motorsport without the Grand Prix could wither on the wine and that would be just as damaging to Formula One as it would be to the industry.
“I therefore call on Bernie Ecclestone, Damon Hill and Richard Phillips to recognise their mutual interest, stand up for Britain and finalise a deal which is good for Silverstone, for Formula One, for the wider motorsport industry and for our nation.”
Wednesday November 25, 09:30: Simon Gillett has given an interesting interview to Autosport – interesting because, once you’re past the top line about reclaiming the race for 2010, it gives a proper insight into what the future holds for Donington Park.
He tells the magazine: “There are multiple paths that we can go down. One is to go back to the good old national and club venue that it was and another is to take it to a hybrid and create the new track for national and club racing.
“The third is if someone comes in with significant funding and go for F1. So that’s what the administration process is going through at the moment.
“There has been a significant amount of interest, but predominantly we’ve been talking about F1, because time is of the essence. But if that doesn’t pan out then there will be more interest in the national circuit.”
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19:00: Dear me, we go out of the office for a few hours and return to discover everything that we previously thought about the fate of the British Grand Prix was wrong.
Simon Gillett’s company might be in administration and his circuit might be in need of considerable remedial work before it can host any kind of racing whatsoever. But that has merely reduced his chances of hosting Britain’s premier motorsports event from 100 per cent in October to 50 per cent now.
Today, he is widely reported as saying: “As far as I see it there are two tracks competing, so in my mind that makes it 50-50. As Bernie said last week, if someone comes in now and invests in Donington the chance is still there.”
He said the administrators were working hard to secure what is known as a business turnaround and that “if we had the money we would have the 17-year agreement.” Well, quite. He added that half a dozen individuals or companies were interested and he thought the circuit was still a viable venue for the race.
Additionally, the London Evening Standard has got this useful snippet of information out of him: he believes it would take “one or two months’ work” to get the track back to a national standard.
Tell you what. Let’s broker a compromise here.
We’ve got a cracking Scalextric layout set up here at Brits on Pole HQ right now. The only problem is that it is a little small – we wanted to fit it on a tabletop.
If we can just raise the funding we can come up with a smashing British Grand Prix track that incorporates all the best features of Silverstone, Donington and even Brands Hatch – Priory to Copse, the Craner Curves, the Dunlop Bridge, Druids and the Graham Hill Bend.
And we are confident we can get it all set up by July, even down to painting the little miniature trees. All we need is for people to chip in with a few quid each for all the extra track. And a bigger table.
So, how about it, folks? Do you think Bernie will go for it and make it a three-way competition?
Read how Donington is still challenging Silverstone by following the links below – although most of them read very similarly being based on the same piece of agency copy from the Press Association:
- Nottingham Evening Post: Donington GP still possible – Gillett
- The Guardian: Donington can still host next year’s British GP, claims Simon Gillett
- The Independent: Donnington [sic] refuse to rule out hosting British Grand Prix
- Sporting Life: Donington still in the frame – Gillett
- London Evening Standard: Simon Gillett thinks Donington can still host British GP
- The Sun: British GP in chaos again
- Press Association: Gillett won’t give up British GP Fight
Tuesday November 24, 10:00: So far this morning, it’s mainly about catching up with last night’s BBC Northampton interview with Richard Phillips. Most interesting are the two pieces from the Northampton Chronicle which report on the parliamentary delegation that visited the circuit yesterday, meeting Ross Brawn in addition to its managing director. Peter Luff, chairman of the Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Committee, has been asked to mediate between the circuit and Ecclestone.
Here are some links:
- Northampton Chronicle: Silverstone Circuit ‘close’ to sealing British GP deal
- Northampton Chronicle: Firms ‘put UK economy in driving seat’
- The Guardian: Silverstone go-ahead for British grand prix is imminent
- Sporting Life: British Grand Prix heading for Silverstone
- The Mirror: Hopes rise for Silverstone deal on British GP
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19:30: That glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel? Rushing rapidly towards us, according to BBC Sport, which is reporting Richard Phillips saying that a Silverstone deal is about to be agreed and it’s just a case of finalising a myriad of detail. Let’s bloody hope so – and on terms which ensure a long and stable future for the circuit.
Monday November 23, 11:30: OK, so where are we this morning? Mainly with the media playing catch-up with Sportsweek and the Ecclestone interview mentioned below. Just to recap: the headline quote was “At the moment, there is no British Grand Prix” and a deadline of the next World Motorsport Council has been set for the contract to be returned by the Silverstone management, or else it’s all off. And if that happens there is the possibility of a new development bid at Donington waiting in the wings. The date of that meeting has variously been given as Wednesday December 9 or Friday December 11.
Now the ball is well and truly back in Silverstone’s court and, if the race is to go ahead, something is going to have to happen to break the deadlock. It’s interesting who might have the power to influence either party who has not already tried – the government? Team principals like Martin Whitmarsh or Frank Williams? The FIA? Regardless, if it’s a game of brinkmanship going on, then there are apparently something like 16 days left in which to play it.
One glimmer of hope comes from the Northampton Chronicle, which has been speaking to local MP Brian Binley. He has revealed that representatives from the Parliamentary Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Committee are visiting the circuit for talks with Richard Phillips aimed at keeping the race in the country. There’s a link to the full story in the list below.
The Companies House record now reflects the fact that Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd is in administration. And Damon Hill has told the Daily Mail: “We aren’t promoters trying to make a profit. We are standing up for British fans. Silverstone has a magic ingredient which is the hundreds of thousands of people who come to the Grand Prix. It’s a race with 60 years of history, one that was won by Fangio, Prost, Senna and by British drivers like Moss, Clark, Stewart and Mansell. [And, as the paper adds, him.]
“Silverstone is part of Formula One’s fabric. But we can’t play high-risk entrepreneurial games with the BRDC. Bernie cannot understand why Silverstone should be allowed into the game if it is not playing for the same high level of risk as everyone else. I get that — but Formula One cannot be all one-way traffic. We’d like to build fantastic grandstands and new pits. But if somebody takes all the money, we can’t have the grandstands.”
We couldn’t agree more. And, if you haven’t taken a look at our suggestions for five ways to show your support, or signed up to our British Grand Prix pledge, this morning might be a good day to do it.
Here’s some of the most recent coverage:
- The Guardian: Bernie Ecclestone issues warning to Silverstone over British grand prix
- Yahoo Eurosport: Ecclestone – At the moment there is no British Grand Prix
- London Evening Standard: Donington Park’s hope as threat looms over Silverstone
- The Express: Formula One chief Bernie in Silverstone ultimatum
- The Telegraph: Bernie Ecclestone confirms Silverstone deadline for British Grand Prix
- Leicester Mercury: All is not lost for Grand Prix at Donington Park – Ecclestone
- Derby Telegraph: Ecclestone – No contract means no grand prix
- Northampton Chronicle: Circuit visit to boost hopes of Grand Prix
- Daily Mail: Bernie Ecclestone gives Silverstone chiefs 19 days to raise £12m and save the British Grand Prix – or lose it
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Sunday November 22, 11:30: Today’s latest is a brief interview on BBC Radio 5 live’s Sportsweek programme in which Bernie Ecclestone comes across like a pensioner resisting being bullied into changing his electricity provider.
“At the moment there is no British Grand Prix,” he confirms, repeating his mantra that Silverstone has a contract if only they’ll sign it. Otherwise the date comes off the calendar in December.
There’s not a lot new in it, and the British Grand Prix stuff is something of an afterthought by the interviewer who’s more interested in pinning Bernie down on exactly what decisions McLaren will make about lead driver next year, and which team Michael Schumacher has signed with.
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Saturday November 21, 11:00: This morning the Derby Telegraph tells us that at least three “serious” groups are believed to have shown an interest in taking over the running of Donington Park – but the administrator won’t be drawn any further. It also quotes BRDC vice-president Tim Parnell, who lives near Derby, saying of the Donington track: “It’s in a hell of a state. It’s all been dug up in certain places, where they were connecting the new loop to it, and there is soil everywhere. It’s horrendous.” Not promising.
Meanwhile the Northants Evening Telegraph takes the line that there’s just three more weeks to save the British Grand Prix, whiile elsewhere in the county the Northampton Chronicle has the circuit close to a deal.
Which is particularly amusing as the stories underneath the headlines are more or less identical. Oh, the wonderful world of editionalised local papers.
Here are links to some of the morning’s coverage:
- Derby Telegraph: British Grand Prix talks possible with new leaseholder, says Bernie
- Northants Evening Telegraph: Time running out for Silverstone British Grand Prix deal
- Northampton Chronicle: Silverstone is close to grand prix deal
- Auto Trader: Bernie – A December 11 deadline for Silverstone
- Auto Trader: Donington given hope to host British GP
- F1 Fanatic: Silverstone gets new Grand Prix deadline
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22:00: The Formula One section has been removed from the front page of the Donington Park website – although much of the content is still accessible via the search function. See for yourselves here.
Also, James Allen has responded to a British Grand Prix question in his latest Q&A for the ITV F1 website. He was asked: “When will the future of the British Grand Prix be sorted out?” He answered: “Bernie Ecclestone has said that it has to be sorted out by the time of the next FIA World Council meeting on December 11th. I think it’s really very close now.” You can read the full Q&A here.
19:00: Radio Derby to Bernie Ecclestone: “Would you enter talks with any new Donington backers?” Bernie Ecclestone to Radio Derby: “Definitely. If someone comes along with the right ideas and funding, then yes.”
17:00: Byron Young, The Mirror’s F1 correspondent, reckons that a long-term Silverstone deal is a win-win for Ecclestone and the BRDC: “Three men and a dog turn out in the sunshine in Turkey but 80,000 sit in pouring rain in the UK. Just as British clothes designers, British football teams and British pop groups set standards that reverberate around the globe, so it is with British motor sport. Ecclestone tinkers with such things at the peril of the entire sport.” Right on. He goes on to point out that we have a motorsport industry to safeguard against growing competition from across Europe, and that we need circuits in a financially healthy state, not with their stands dismantled and their spectator areas reduced to a muddy wasteland pending building work that will probably never come. Read his full blog post here.
Friday November 20, 11:00: We are sad to report that the megaphone diplomacy has started up again this morning, with Bernie Ecclestone shouting from his favourite News International rooftop that Silverstone had better sign the contract or the event will be dropped. He’s set a deadline – a deadline! – of December 11, which is the date of the next meeting of the FIA World Motor Sport Council. He says the circuit is looking for additional funding to finance the deal and claims the issue is “whether the investors are prepared to bankroll them and take the risk” and reiterates his position that Silverstone has no reason to expect special treatment.
In response, Damon Hill sticks to his line that the BRDC will not sign up to a deal that risks financially damaging the circuit and says there is “a fine line” between that and a prudent settlement.
Meanwhile, at Donington Park, it’s our fault that the bid failed. Yes, yours and ours – for not supporting it hard enough. That’s the view of Stuart Garner, who runs Donington Park-based Norton Motorcycles, and you can read more in the Derby Telegraph. There’s a robust defence to this charge and we are fully prepared to make it – just not in the middle of this post.
Scott Garrett, formerly Williams’ marketing manager and now a director of sponsorship consultancy Synergy, says that the ultimate failure of the Donington scheme was sad but absolutely inevitable. You can read his take on the company blog here: Stillborn – the British Grand Prix at Donington
Here’s a selection of the morning’s coverage:
- The Times: Bernie Ecclestone ready to drop British Grand Prix
- Autosport: Time running out for Silverstone deal
- The Guardian: Ecclestone threatens to pull British grand prix unless Silverstone sign
- The Mirror: Bernie Ecclestone sets Silverstone December deadline over British GP
- New York Times: Ecclestone Sets Silverstone A December Deadline
- Autocar: Bernie’s threat to Silverstone
- ITV F1: Bernie warns Silverstone over 2010 race
- Sporting Life: Ecclestone sets Silverstone deadline
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20:00: Remember the parable of the Emperor’s New Clothes? Here is a man prepared to say that, as regards Formula One at Donington in 2011, His Imperial Highness has, at the very least, his royal arse hanging quite blatantly out of his trousers. Matt James from Motorsport News, interviewed by the BBC, says the idea of Formula One at Donington is effectively over. Also there is a video package with some extremely illuminating aerial footage showing the circuit’s current state.
15:20: A statement has been published on the Donington Park website indicating the administrator believes it is still a viable proposition to stage Formula One events there from 2011.
Corporate recovery specialists Begbies Traynor are now responsible for getting the best return they can from the company’s assets on behalf of creditors – just as Mercer and Hole are in the parallel case of A1GP – and so it’s in their interests to talk up the situation.
That’s probably enough to explain the incredible optimism in the idea that a saviour exists who can buy the assets, fund the necessary development of the circuit and talk Bernie Ecclestone into breaking off negotiations with Silverstone and renewing the contract that Simon Gillett was unable to fulfil.
Sounds ridiculous – but so have many things in this saga.
Here’s the full statement (as it read on its first appearance on the Donington website):
DONINGTON PARK OPERATES [sic] ENTER ADMINISTRATION
The company which held the lease over the Donington Park motor racing circuit has entered administration.
The affairs of Donington Ventures Leisure Limited (“DVLL”) are being handled by partners Nigel Price, John Kelly and James Martin from the Birmingham office of corporate recovery specialists Begbies Traynor.
DVLL had a 17-year contract with Formula One Administration to host the British Grand Prix round of the Formula One World Motor Racing Championship, signed in July 2008. It also had a 150-year lease on the circuit, with landlord, Wheatcroft & Son Limited, signed in January 2007, which also hosts the likes of pop concerts, corporate days and markets as well as motor sport.
Work has already begun to develop the circuit to Formula One Grand Prix standard.
Mr Price said: “This need not be the end of Formula One racing at Donington.
“We are certainly hopeful that a 2011 Grand Prix could take place at the site. We are looking for a purchaser for the business and the potential opportunity to bring Formula One to this part of the Midlands by funding the work that needs to be carried out to the circuit.
“It still remains a fantastic location – next to an airport and main motorway connections.
“It needs people of vision to get the dream to the starting grid and we would be very interested in talking to interested parties.”
Mr Price said Begbies Traynor was still assessing how much was owed to creditors.
Oh, the possibilities that this opens up.
14:50: Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd is reportedly in administration, according to the BBC. Story here.
Only the fact of it at the moment, no additional information. But the BBC would not report such a story without having it very well-sourced. We did check the Companies House record earlier this morning and that doesn’t reflect it yet, but it does take time for documents to be filed and records updated. Nothing on the circuit’s website yet either.
We’ll add additional coverage to the list below as it appears:
- Nottingham Evening Post: Donington Ventures goes into administration “Nigel Price, in the Birmingham office of Begbies Traynor, has been appointed to oversee the company’s administration period”
- Gigwise: Download Festival 2010 Early Bird Tickets On Sale Tomorrow – will be very interesting to see if organisers can go ahead with this or not.
- Business East Midlands: Donington Ventures goes into administration
- The Guardian: Company which tried to bring Formula One to Donington ‘in adminstration’
- Autosport: Donington Ventures in administration
- ITV F1: Donington operator in administration
- Sporting Life: Donington retains Grand Prix hope
Thursday November 19, 11:00: A few more snippets of information from Donington’s local papers this morning. Firstly, Download is going ahead as planned despite the uncertainty over who will hold the lease by then. Tickets have gone on sale. But it is “too early to say” what will happen regarding planned motorsport events.
Secondly the administrator has put a ballpark figure on the amount of money owed by DVLL – “several million pounds”. And here’s the third and most significant bit, from the Derby Telegraph: “Nigel Price, from the administrator, said interest in taking over the circuit had been shown almost immediately by an overseas firm.”
He goes on to say: “There are people out there with the will to do it. We have been made aware today of people who have funding available and a keen interest in having Formula One at Donington.” He said discussions would be held over the next few days.
Meanwhile, back over the way, we still don’t have much idea what might be going on regarding Silverstone, Bernie Ecclestone and the contract for the British Grand Prix. However Sir Jackie Stewart has chosen the occasion of Jenson Button’s signing to McLaren to make his views known.
He has told the London Evening Standard: “”I don’t think they are that far away from a financial figure. They have to keep the race. It would be a major error of judgement if Bernie was to take it away purely for financial reasons.”
The paper also adds that it is understood the BRDC are willing to pay up to £12million to stage the race in 2010, but the sticking point is the above-inflation ‘escalator’ that would increase the licence fee every season after that.
Links to this morning’s coverage: