F1: British Grand Prix developments liveblog October 29 – November 18

By Andy Darley

CalendarFriday, October 2nd, 2009

 
 

This is the fourth 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 October 29th to November 18th, 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.

Wednesday November 18, 14:20: We’ve got commenter John to thank for noticing and drawing our attention to this one (see thread below) — but it looks like the financial position of Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd could soon be a bit clearer.

According to the circuit’s local paper, The Derby Telegraph, staff have been having a series of briefings this morning about its current circumstances.

You can read the full story here: Donington Park staff in meetings about circuit’s financial situation

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14:30: Here’s something for those people with an interest in the future of Donington Park. A couple of 2010 events have been confirmed as taking place there. Firstly, the Download Festival is set to be held on Friday June 11 to Sunday June 13. No acts are confirmed yet but it will mark the 30th anniversary of rock festivals at the venue. Read more here. Also, and more pertinent to motorsport fans, the British GT event is due to race at the circuit in October when it holds a ‘twilight’ finale to its season. Read more here.

Perhaps these are encouraging signs of business as usual.

Tuesday November 17, 12:00: See, it’s not just us that knows nothing. Proof that there really is nothing to know comes from Pitpass, which has been one of the soundest sources of information on this whole saga. Yesterday, in an article entitled “The longest 48 hours in history,” it spent three paragraphs wondering aloud what is going on, and says: “A lot of British race fans are getting decidedly twitchy.” Well, you can say that again.

Read the article here or, if you are sick of sitting on your hands when you’d like to be getting on and buying your ticket, sign up to our British Grand Prix pledge here.

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Monday November 16, 11:00: No, it’s not just you. It has been days since we had a peep out of anyone about the future of the British Grand Prix. Just to recap: the situation appears to be that Bernie Ecclestone has offered Silverstone a contract that fulfils his company’s financial requirements which the circuit management feels unable to sign because it compromises theirs. With the race well-supported among F1’s movers and shakers, and no other venue available, they need to come to an agreement. A Tweet from James Allen a day or two back (see below) suggests that the government may have stepped in to knock heads together. Personally we take this silence as positive. If the real horse-trading has started, no-one should have the time or inclination to pick up the phone and chat to journalists.

But, if you’ve spotted anything interesting, do post it in the comments — thanks to those readers that have been doing just that. A day or two ago Motorsport.com posted this round-up of the situation, which tells us nothing new but is good for a read if you have a few minutes going spare.

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November 12, 2009, 21:00 More positive noises from James Allen who says that a Silverstone deal may be coming together, with a little help from a senior (unnamed) government figure — read his Tweet here. As much as we’d like it to be Lord Drayson, you have to suspect he means Mandelson…

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21:00: Well, blow us down, some insight into the state of play at Donington Park. Well done to The Loughborough Echo for reporting on this aspect of the saga, as plenty of motorsport fans are anxious to get an idea of what its future holds. The key bit of the article is this: “‘We don’t know anything,’ said a spokesperson for the circuit. ‘The last thing we saw was when we read in the papers that Bernie Ecclestone was setting Silverstone a deadline to agree terms last week. We’re just waiting to hear from Simon Gillett.’”

Read the full article here.

Meanwhile F1 journalist James Allen has Tweeted a snippet that undercuts Joe Saward’s story of yesterday (see below). He writes: “Saw one of Silverstone negotiating team today — no news. He knew nothing of rumoured ‘20th race’ deal to get races in GB and France.” Hmm.

Wednesday November 11. 11:00: There is no news. No news at all. As soon as there is some news we’ll add it to this page. In the meantime this is just a quick note to tell you we’re still watching events and are sadly not off enjoying the winter sunshine in Barbados, or somewhere else suitably glamorous. So do join us in watching the tumbleweed blow idly across the horizon. Because this has to be resolved eventually. Doesn’t it?

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Monday November 9, 10:00: Essential reading this morning is a blog post by Joe Saward in which he sets out the 2010 calendar situation and all the facts about the British Grand Prix. He sees Donington as completely out of the picture and raises the possibility of the calendar being increased to 20 races with Britain and France both being offered affordable deals. Read his piece here and a slightly different take on the same idea on Saward’s GrandPrix.com site.

As for the Donington Park website, the ‘Share our Vision’ tab in the sidebar, the one that used to take you to the race countdown, now redirects to the fan zone. But you can still get to it from this page.

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Sunday November 8, 11:30: While Bernie and the BRDC have been busy trying to stare each other down over a contract, there seems to have been some activity over the way. On November 3 a number of personnel changes affecting Donington Holdings Plc were filed at Companies House. Two directors had their appointments terminated — Hennah Raza who we believe to have represented a legal partnership called Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP that was involved in managing the acquisition of the circiut, and Thomas Pond. Four new directors were appointed — Simon Gillett, Paul White, Nicholas Schwartz and James Gallon. These four are, of course, already the directors of Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd. Of course, we can draw no firm conclusions from this. It could be a housekeeping exercise or it could mean something is on the cards — we just don’t know.

But they still haven’t got around to filing their accounts — or, indeed, removing the Formula One section from their website.

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Saturday November 7, 09:00: A week since the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and we don’t have a deal yet. Neither Ecclestone nor the circuit management nor Damon Hill has seen fit to brief any newspapers recently, so we can just hope this means they have their heads down working on making the race happen.

Below you can read about people being supportive of the idea of the race. One of our suggestions for ways that fans could possibly make their views heard and try to influence what is going on was to simply tell your favourite team that you want to see them race here next year. So, if you haven’t already, pop along to our ‘five things’ post (linked to above) and find out how to have a word on the subject.

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Friday November 6, 10:00: No sign of a deal yet. In fact, there seems to be the start of a consensus that there might not be a deal within Bernie’s 48-hour deadline. Which brings us back to another marvellous, magical, elastic deadline — of the sort that everyone was already pretty bored with, thanks.

The Times (link below, scroll down to final pars of story) reports that the circuit management was “surprised” to hear about the 48-hour deadline. Meanwhile Keith Collantine at F1 Fanatic has been number-crunching that 7 per cent escalator that is said to be attached to the contract. And does he think Silverstone can afford it? The answer’s an emphatic ‘no’.

On the other hand it is our understanding that the industry expects a deal to be done within the week. So, once again, all we can do is wait and see…

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Thursday November 5, 9:00: 48 hours to save the British Grand Prix! Several papers are reporting this morning that Bernie Ecclestone is getting impatient and wants to see a deal done in the next two days or he’ll take his toys home, that is remove the race from the calendar. The Guardian quotes him as follows: “They say there is not much between us and them, so they should sign. Maybe they have lost their pen but if they don’t find it in the next day or two then that’s it.”

Here’s some of this morning’s coverage:

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20:00: And there’s more — a new Guardian piece by Alan Henry in which Bernie lets it be known that his position towards Silverstone has softened a little: “Maybe I’ve backed off on a few little things that perhaps I shouldn’t have done to give them a helping hand, but that’s it. The contract is there. If they want to sign it, that’s fine. If not, then it’s up to them.” Read the full piece here. This is the only report of this development that we have spotted so far.

17:00: This story explaining Silverstone’s position has appeared this afternoon in The Guardian: Damon Hill calls for patience after talks over British grand prix future

Tuesday November 3, 10:00: And still there is a very loud silence emanating from both Silverstone and Formula One management. There’s been no substantive news whatsoever since before the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, when it was confirmed that both sides were in talks about the race’s future. Unless you count the news that nothing was agreed in that weekend’s face-to-face meetings.

However, here’s a story from the Northants Evening Telegraph that suggests the British-based teams have been lobbying Ecclestone to keep the race. Don’t forget you can find out how to contact them and tell them that you want to see them race in Britain next year by clicking here.

And the death of Donington’s driving force, Tom Wheatcroft, has led motorsport writer Alan Henry to reflect on what the future holds for the circuit. You can read his piece for Autocar here.

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Monday November 2: The news this morning is that there isn’t any news. We were quite surprised that a deal between Silverstone and Formula One Management wasn’t closed in Abu Dhabi — and we weren’t expecting the future of the race to still be unresolved this morning.

The circuit reportedly had a five-man negotiating team out there to try to tie the race down — but it didn’t succeed. Both sides are making positive noises to the media, but have nothing concrete to announce.

Meanwhile Donington Park has published its own statement commemorating Tom Wheatcroft which you can read here.

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12:00: Terrible news — Tom Wheatcroft, 87, who restored Donington Park from dereliction in the 1970s and who hoped to see the British Grand Prix take place there, died of cancer yesterday morning according to this article from Bike Sport News which quotes its own director Sir Robin Miller, a long-time family friend. Our condolences to his family.

More coverage:

Sunday November 1, 11:30: A fair bit to round up today, since we weren’t around to update this post yesterday. The position seems to be that both Silverstone (represented in Abu Dhabi by the circuit’s MD Richard Phillips and BRDC President Damon Hill) and Bernie Ecclestone are trying hard to thrash out a deal for the circuit to host the race. But while they are moving closer together, they haven’t reached a mutually satisfactory arrangement yet.

Meanwhile de facto Prime Minister Peter Mandelson has laughed out of court the idea that government funding will be available to help. Which is never something we could have seriously expected, but this is confirmation that the official position hasn’t shifted an inch.

Meanwhile, over at Donington Park, the DVLL accounts for 2008 are now listed as overdue on the Companies House website.

Here’s some of the coverage from the last two days:

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22:00: A late addition to your day’s reading. Pitpass has been doggedly pursuing that ‘phantom’ £12 million that The Express reported as winging its way to Bernie Ecclestone right on the deadline, even though the banks were closed. Their conclusion: Sceptical? You probably should have been. Read Chris Sylt’s report here.

Tomorrow we will be out of the office, so this post probably won’t be updated with quite the regularity to which you have been accustomed. Of course, that guarantees that tomorrow is the day on which the deal is done.

12:30: Bernie’s been engaging in a bit of megaphone diplomacy courtesy of the BBC. He says he’d be “very upset” to lose the race. He says it’s not his job to cut the UK some slack. He says Silverstone can has a contract which it can take or leave. He rehearses the usual tired arguments about state-of-the-art facilities without acknowledging the intangibles that add so much value to the sport worldwide (see marshals and medics, below). And he says he’s getting bored now. So are we, Bernie. So are we. If you feel like actually listening to him saying all this stuff (we usually find the irritation and raised blood pressure outweighs the usefulness, but that’s just a personal view) you can do so here.

Friday October 30, 10:00: Practice is on at Abu Dhabi and we’re hopeful that there will be positive news before this race meeting is over. As the commentators on BBC radio are pointing out, when Abu Dhabi wanted 300 of the world’s best motorsport marshals and medics to keep the race safe, where did it come? That’s right — Britain. And that’s just one more reason why Formula One needs to visit this country.

Here’s a selection of this morning’s coverage while we wait for more:

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15:30: Right, news. Nothing like the F1 circus getting together in one place to shift things, is there? It’s Silverstone or bust, says Bernie Ecclestone. He has confirmed that Donington Park is out of the picture as the venue for the British Grand Prix. He blames the credit crunch, finds some good things to say about them having the best of intentions and commiserates with the Wheatcroft family.

He puts the lid firmly on the idea that Simon Gillett managed to make things right by wiring him £12 million at the last moment, as was claimed in The Express. And, as regards Silverstone he plays down differences of opinion about the contract and says it is there for the management to sign if they want it. The ball, as many editorialising journalists point out, is in Richard Phillips’ court. Let’s hope he has a good backhand.

Thursday October 29, 10:00: On the subject of the British Grand Prix, there may be a tiny but growing dot of light appearing at the end of the tunnel with negotiations between Bernie Ecclestone and Silverstone proceeding apace. As we mention below, the circuit’s MD Richard Phillips is flying out to Abu Dhabi to try to expedite a deal, so there is a possibility of a positive announcement this weekend.

On the subject of Donington Park, the outlook is bleaker. There has been no official statement for days, leaving aside this mysterious phone call to The Express, and those people now concerned that a functioning circuit should emerge from this mess have their eyes firmly fixed on the state of the leaseholders’ finances.

Here’s some of this morning’s coverage:

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