Finally, after months of highs and lows, near-breakthroughs and crushing disappointments, an end to the saga of the British Grand Prix is here. The Powers That Be at Silverstone have held a press conference and announced that they have secured a 17-year lease.
The news was revealed, as expected, after the BRDC booked a London hotel and invited the world’s media to turn up so they could hear the outcome of months of negotiations.
The Silverstone website has avoided triumphalist announcements, but it does carry the information so many people have been waiting for – how to buy tickets. You can get them here, and at the time of writing there’s a 20 per cent discount for early booking.
Despite earlier claims to the contrary from promoter Simon Gillett and his company’s administrator Donington Park is now definitively out of the picture as a Formula One venue for at least a decade. The hope now is that an investor will be found who will restore it to the excellent club and national circuit that it should be.
And now the fans who have faced months of uncertainty over whether or not they would be able to attend a top-flight motorsport event in this country next year finally have some answers.
We’ll continue to keep this post updated with the latest news so keep checking back. It’s grown to such a length it’s become a multi-part post – you can get the links to the earlier dates at the foot of the page, before the comments. And thanks for reading. If you spot anything we’ve missed please post it in the comments.
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Thursday December 10, 13:00: That’s all, folks. With the GP firmly settled at Silverstone and tickets selling like hot cakes, it’s finally time to bring this very long post to an end.
We’d like to thank everyone who has visited over the last few months and we very much hope we have persuaded you to keep reading. We’ll endeavour to keep the racing news coming through the off-season and we will be covering as many of the open-wheel series as we can manage from next spring.
Of course we will also be covering all the future twists and turns in the British GP saga. We’re especially interested in what the future holds for Donington Park, as we feel Britain needs all the racing circuits it can get, especially in the current climate of noise restrictions and when the venue is as good as Donington is/was.
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Whichever method you choose, we look forward to hearing your comments and feedback on the site in the future.
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Tuesday December 8, 11:00: Reaction to yesterday’s news centres mainly around people deconstructing the presumed details of the deal – Damon Hill has said he cannot publicly discuss them – and wondering how Silverstone is going to succeed in meeting Ecclestone’s terms. Here’s a selection:
- Maurice Hamilton, writing in The Guardian, says that Silverstone will have to walk a financial tightrope if it is to make the deal work. He describes all the different factors that the management team is having to juggle, including an upgrade programme due to be completed by 2012, the need to balance income from gate receipts against the willingness of fans to fork out for tickets and he concludes: “It is a problem for Silverstone, not Ecclestone, who will be 96 if both he and the British grand prix are still around at the conclusion of the deal.” Read the full story here.
- The Belfast Telegraph claims in its coverage that Silverstone’s five per cent escalator simply doesn’t add up. It feels that ticket prices have been pushed as high as they reasonably can be without fans simply deciding to stay at home, while the money is simply not there for corporate hospitality to fill the gap and a five per cent growth figure is unrealistic. It says: “Presumably the British Racing Drivers Club knows something about this country’s petrol heads that we don’t. Because in economic terms, it’s hard to see how it could otherwise sign up to the deal.” Read the full story here.
- The Daily Mail reckons the circuit is set for around £100 million worth of investment as a result of the deal. It says: “The hosting fee will end up well in excess of £250million, which has to be largely recouped from ticket sales. It means that the BRDC will need to build on this year’s 320,000-strong crowd, which makes the British Grand Prix the country’s best-attended sports event after Wimbledon. The BRDC is adamant that ticket prices – currently over £100 for a three-day pass – will not rise ahead of inflation, although if grassy banks are replaced by proper grandstands the face value will reflect that. Costs will also be offset by the sale of land at Silverstone, which has planning permission for offices and light industry.” It adds: “‘We are going to put a harbour in, although it might have to be full of barges,’ joked Hill, referring to Silverstone’s proximity to canal networks rather than marinas.” It also has a nice photo of the last three British world champions together. Read the full story here.
- The Northern Echo has some interesting quotes from Damon Hill, describing the balancing act the circuit has had to perform between its own interests, fans’ interests, industry interests and the financial requirements of Formula One Management. He says: “The BRDC and Silverstone are absolutely mindful of the effect of the British Grand Prix on the industry in this country. But, placed in a very difficult situation, they also had to think of their obligations to their property and their business… It’s very important to make clear Silverstone had to sign up to a deal which was manageable, and not something that was pie in the sky. It’s also a commitment and now we’re very committed to developing Silverstone and making big investments in the circuit.” Read the full story here.
- There’s one person who doesn’t think Silverstone will struggle to meet the terms of the deal, or that ticket prices are set to rise to unreasonable levels. Want to take a guess? That’s riight – B Ecclestone Esq. He told The Express: “I got fed up with the whingeing and moaning. It has taken too long, but now Silverstone can get on with it for years to come and make a fortune. I didn’t have any special sentiment because it was Britain, but if people think I helped then that’s nice. I am happy, Silverstone is happy and we have a British GP for years to come unless they make a mess of it.” As the paper points out, his knighthood will be winging its way to him in December. Not. It also refers to something that was floating about a few weeks ago but has not been referred to for a while – the fact that the deal is likely underwritten by a foreign investor, very possibly from the Middle East. Read the full story here.
- The lease on Donington Park is set to be sold within days, according to its administrator, who admits that Formula One is out of the picture there for at least 10 years. Read our separate story here.
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1400: The Telegraph, which was one of the most authoritative sources of information on the state of Donington’s finances during the whole GP saga, has an interesting piece on the future of the Derby circuit. It suggests that, while the F1 project was “disastrous” for Donington, it laid the groundwork for the long-term arrangement just signed by Silverstone. But its conclusions about the circuit’s future are depressing reading. Read the full piece here.
13:00: F1 journalist Will Buxton has some insight into the new circuit layout on his blog here. Basically, we are talking changes to accommodate MotoGP at Abbey and possibly also at Club. Another version of the map showing this is on the Silverstone website here. As Phillips said, this is still subject to FIA sign-off.
Meanwhile, Autosport has Ecclestone making some approving noises in what is clearly a pre-prepared statement, so little does it sound like his regular utterances. That’s good of him. Also, a Q&A with Damon Hill, in which he admits that he was doubtful about the future of the race.
And McLaren has also welcomed the decision, quoting both Whitmarsh and Hamilton – but not Button, who remains contracted to Brawn until the new year.
11.30: You can read our story on the subject here or buy your tickets here, complete with a 20 per cent “early bird” discount. There is a also a bit of confusion about exactly which circuit layout will be used. In Autosport Phillips talks of a new ‘Arena’ circuit and adds: “The FIA have been to see it, it has been submitted for homologation and we hope to be running on the ‘arena’ circuit next summer. If not we can run on the current circuit.”
Monday December 7, 10:30: And the deal is done. The British Grand Prix is to return to Silverstone for 17 years starting from 2010.
Announcing the move, Damon Hill said: “The title of Silverstone as home of motorsport has come true. It is a place for all motorsport. Everyone in the BRDC loves motorsport and we are looking forward to the MotoGP as well as the British Grand Prix.
“It is not easy to enter into a contract of this magnitude and you have to take on a lot of responsibility, but the BRDC wanted this relationship to continue.
“Everyone was well aware that the British GP is not just a sporting event, but it is dynamo of the industry in this country. Losing it would have been damaging and perhaps there would have been no coming back.”
He also said that the new pit and paddock work will begin after Christmas and it is hoped it will be finished for the 2011 race.
- Autosport: Silverstone secures British GP from 2010
- James Allen: Silverstone to announce long term deal to host British GP – Allen has the same numbers as Ed Gorman’s Times story last night – a race fee of £12 million rising to £16.8 million in 2015 and a 10-year break clause in the contract.
- The Guardian: Silverstone agree 17-year contract to stage British Grand Prix – lots of quotes from Hill and Phillips
- Daily Express: British Grand Prix saved for Silverstone
- Yorkshire Post: Silverstone rescues British Grand Prix in 17-year deal
- The Times: Silverstone’s £300m deal saves British Grand Prix
- The Scotsman: British Grand Prix saved after Silverstone deal
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22:15: Here are a few stories giving a strong indication of what we might expect tomorrow:
- The Times: Silverstone’s £300m deal saves British Grand Prix – Edward Gorman says that Bernie has knocked £60 million off his fee and cut the escalator to five per cent on a 17-year deal that might nevertheless end after 10 years. Bernie’s parting shot: “It’s been a long and tiring nonsense. They could have done this whole thing months and months ago.”
- The Telegraph: Silverstone steps in at eleventh hour to save British Grand Prix “The British summer is saved… Silverstone is to be unveiled on Monday as the home of the 2010 British Grand Prix.” No numbers in this report by Kevin Garside.
- The Guardian: Damon Hill closes in on new grand prix deal for Silverstone – Alan Henry offers completely different numbers from The Times’ Edward Gorman, quoting Silverstone as paying around £14m for the 2010 race with a seven per cent escalator over just five years.
- Auto Trader: ‘The British Grand Prix has been saved’ – Based on the earlier Mail story.
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Sunday December 6, 11:00: A couple more articles this morning covering Monday’s planned press conference. The BBC is neutral on the topic of what we can expect, The Mail has made up its mind that the news is good:
- BBC Sport: Silverstone to reveal future of British Grand Prix
- Mail on Sunday: Joy for Jenson Button as champ welcomes British Grand Prix rescue plan
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23.30: While Silverstone is (presumably) nailing down the final details on the deal that will hopefully sort out this long-running saga for good, Bernie Ecclestone – perhaps feeling he’s not getting enough attention while the focus is on the possibility of good news from Damon Hill on Monday – has taken the chance to stick the knife in again.
The Telegraph is carrying some unsourced quotes in which the F1 commercial rights holder says “Donington is gone” and he has no idea whether the BRDC will sign a contract. But if it doesn’t, the calendar is already over-full and will manage just fine without a race in Britain.
“If it is pulled from the calendar it is final. If it’s gone, it’s gone – the new circuits coming in would replace it naturally,” he is quoted as saying.
No pressure, Damon.
Saturday December 5, 10:00: The Silverstone press release may have given no indication either way about what’s coming on Monday – but that’s not stopped a wild burst of British GP enthusiasm from The Mail and The Mirror this morning. ITV F1 is a bit calmer:
- Daily Mail: Silverstone WILL host British Grand Prix after agreement with F1 ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone
- The Mirror: Ecclestone deal saves British GP
- ITV F1: British GP decision due on Monday
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Friday December 4, 23:00: It is just possible that this epic post is not about to go to a sixth page [it did, in the end!] and that the endless saga of the British Grand Prix is finally coming to a conclusion.
At around 7pm Autosport’s Jon Noble tweeted: “Silverstone to hold press conference on Monday to discuss the British Grand Prix. Let’s hope it is good news.”
Subsequently Autosport and The Press Association reported that an outcome is expected after the weekend with a final round of talks on Monday morning followed by a press conference at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel, featuring Richard Phillips and Damon Hill.
The circuit is not commenting either way, so we will just have to wait and see what’s going to be announced, unless someone gets chatty over the weekend. Although a word that keeps cropping up across the reports is “optimistic”.
But whether that’s from the circuit or more the work of the various journalists involved, we do not know. Autosport in particular is staying studiously neutral.
Here are links to the most recent coverage:
- Autosport: British GP fate to be known on Monday
- The Press Association: D-Day for British GP
- The Guardian: Silverstone optimistic of securing British grand prix deal on Monday (based on the PA copy)
- Sporting Life: D-Day for British Grand Prix (based on the PA copy)