F1: Silverstone sets British GP ultimatum

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarSaturday, August 15th, 2009

 
 

Silverstone has issued a British Grand Prix ultimatum to Bernie Ecclestone and Donington Park – it’s six weeks or bust if you want us to stage the 2010 race.

Logistical issues like the hire of grandstands and the sale of tickets means that the Northamptonshire circuit must know as soon as possible if it is required to step in and host the race, according to Richard Phillips, its chief executive.

In an interview with Autosport he explained how his organisation put a plan in place from January to host the Grand Prix should Donington Park’s redevelopment plans fail to materialise.

But Phillips says it is being undermined by the confusion over the race’s future, which means tickets did not go on sale immediately after the July event, a necessary decision over whether to continue renting half the circuit’s seating infrastructure and an alleged refusal by Donington Park management to enter into negotiations.

He told Autosport: “What surprised [Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley] was that we improved. We improve every year and I guess the expectation was that they would rock up here and think; it is the last grand prix so why would Silverstone worry about it? We invested more money and we just did it better and better, and the crowd was even bigger than before.

“In January of this year, we started to plan for a 2010 grand prix, as it takes about 18 months to get all the strategies – for things like grandstands and everything else – sorted out. And, with MotoGP coming here, it is an even bigger job for us as we have a lot of things to move and think about.

“So we started the planning and were in the position to do that. We have a very strong team – they have a lot of experience. I cannot see the team at Donington Park being able to do the planning for it and I think they are running a bit too close to the wind just from an organisation point of view, let alone in terms of the building work.”

He said that he felt uncertainty over the Donington plans could also damage sales, with race fans unwilling to part with cash when faced with a risk that the redevelopment might not succeed.

“How much longer can they go on? It is always mañana… it’s always tomorrow they are going to get the money, or tomorrow they are going to start work. But it doesn’t happen.

“If something has been achieved this year it is that having a sustainable grand prix is important — wherever it is. Now we just want to move on.

“There are plenty of other things in F1 that are controversial and interesting to follow — but you don’t want to be following a saga about the venue. You just want it delivered properly and people to enjoy themselves.”

Read the full interview in Autosport here >>

Autosport sought a comment from Donington on the progress of its redevelopment for its story accompanying the interview. The circuit has recently engaged developer Jayne McGivern to work on the scheme.

The magazine was told: “Work behind the scenes is still ongoing, but unfortunately there’s nothing that we can talk about publicly just yet.”

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