The possibility of crucial protection for the British Grand Prix and four other classic European races to remain on F1’s calendar has emerged – courtesy of an unnamed team principal.
That individual has told The Times that the condition is a key feature of the Concorde Agreement – the commercial contract which underpins F1, currently in front of the teams.
Bernie Ecclestone’s Formula One Management (FOM), and the FIA headed by Max Mosley, are keen to get a new contract signed as quickly as possible. The Formula One Teams Association (FOTA) was formed last year to expedite negotiations.
The fact that the contract names the British Grand Prix as a protected race while its promoter threatens to call it off would presumably make the paddock too hot to hold Ecclestone should he make good on his repeated threats of “Donington or bust.”
Interestingly Monaco, the only race at which he does not have the rights to the trackside advertising hoardings, is not on the list of protected events. This will inevitably fuel the speculation kicked off at last year’s Singapore Grand Prix that he intends to replace it.
Damon Hill, president of the British Racing Drivers’ Club which owns Silverstone, has also confirmed the existence of the draft agreement, saying: “Britain is a key protected race. The first grand prix of the modern era was held at Silverstone and this country has been loyal to the championship throughout.
“Now we have new countries wanting to stage grands prix and governments willing to put up the money for them. But there is no government money for a British Grand Prix and Bernie needs to recognise this. It will not happen.
“Everybody was sceptical about Donington from the start, yet we have funds here to improve our circuit and we are improving all the time. But we have to do it with our own means and with our own money.
“The FIA should also act responsibly for the health and wellbeing of the sport. Britain is a protected race and they should look after it.”
The British race is also on a protected list held by the FIA – but this is not news (we reported it in February). It has been confirmed by Mosley, who said at a lunch with journalists that it gave him no powers to compel Ecclestone to stage a race at the price of unfavourable commercial terms.
Also France, said to be on both lists, does not currently feature on the Grand Prix calendar.
The Times also reports that Silverstone has £40 million worth of redevelopment funding in place should it be re-awarded the race. It won planning permission for its development scheme in August.
• In a separate development, the Donington Park management has stated that it expects its licensing issues to be sorted out following a MSA track inspection of the circuit scheduled for Thursday.
In a statement published on its website and dated May 1, it said: “Following weeks of dialogue with the MSA — the UK’s governing body of motorsport — plans, supported by drawings, for the run-off area between McLeans and Coppice were last night agreed.
“MSA Technical Director John Symes will formally inspect the track at Leicestershire’s parkland circuit on Thursday 7 May to ensure that it is in accordance with agreed plans. His purpose will be to grant the track licence for that weekend’s Masters Historic Racing Classic and the subsequent weekend’s premier motor racing event, BTCC.”
It goes on to say that contractors are working on a 24-hour schedule to ensure that the upcoming events from the BTCC and Masters Historic Racing can go ahead.
Promoter Simon Gillett added: “Our main concern is the future and in ensuring that our forthcoming events in May are a huge success for all involved. We have ongoing communication with the directors of both car race series that will host events at Donington Park in May and we are all working positively together for the benefit of the fans and competitors.”