Jonathan Palmer has put a proposed redevelopment of the Snetterton circuit on hold for up to a year because he says this is no time to be undertaking big construction projects.
Palmer, whose MotorSportVision company owns Brands Hatch and Oulton Park in addition to Snetterton, has just won planning permission for circuit upgrades plus a hotel and a racing school.
But the boss says that, with the current economic downturn settling in, “it’s not a great time to be spending money and building things right now, that’s obvious to anybody.”
This begs one huge, screaming great question.
If Palmer does not feel able to embark on the relatively modest £15 million redevelopment of Snetterton how is Simon Gillet, with a hard deadline and no elbow room, going to fare with his £100 million Donington Park scheme?
Palmer told BBC Radio Norfolk: “Hopefully by the time we know the exact detail of the development the economic climate will be on the up.
“We’ve got a general structure planned for the site, but the detail has got to be carefully considered; it’ll take six months to look at that.
“I think you’ll find that very few people with development sites are putting the money in just now, we’re not going to be any different to that. There’s going to be some caution before we do start building and we’d be fools not to.
“We’ve got to see how the climate pans out, but it’s certainly going to happen. I’d say we shall be starting construction probably in a year’s time.”
Palmer, who was recently awarded the tender to organise and kit out the planned Formula 2 series, has the advantage over the Donington developers in that he already has planning permission.
North West Leicestershire District Council aims to have a ruling on the Donington application by December 19th, and the east Midlands circuit’s management may be pinning their hopes on the worst of the economic crisis having passed by the time they are in a position to start work.
But there can be no doubt that Palmer’s caution will be an unwelcome reminder of the scale of the task that they face. And another reason for British F1 fans to wonder whether they will have a race to attend in 2010.