Silverstone deal a triumph for commonsense
It is not by any means something that can be taken for granted in Formula One, but commonsense seems to have prevailed at last.
Silverstone’s deal with Bernie Ecclestone for the circuit to host the British Grand Prix for the next 17 years makes sense on so many levels and yet has been tougher to resolve than any of the controversies and scandals of recent years.
It is to be hoped that one of the longest running, and most tedious, sagas has now ended although that is probably too much to hope in a sport constantly making headlines.
“Bernie’s a driven man, he always wants better,” said Damon Hill, 1996 champion and president of the circuit-owning BRDC, with a resigned smile after announcing the deal on Monday. “So I’m sure he will be looking to keep us on our toes”.
Ecclestone’s decision last year to do a similar 17-year deal with Donington Park from 2010 seemed to fly in the face of reason — not least because it meant a much-loved motorcycling venue taking over the Formula One and the MotoGP heading to Silverstone instead — and appeared unlikely from the very outset.
Silverstone had the road access sorted, unlike Donington where getting in and out on a race weekend can be nightmarish, and the track itself is a part of the sport’s fabric and history as the first to host a championship race.
The end result was as many had predicted, with Donington’s promoters unable to provide the cash to match their ambitions and a return to square one.
The deal is good news for race fans and for the British motorsport industry and local economy. Even Prime Minister Gordon Brown got in on the act on Monday, thanking Silverstone for putting Britain “right in the centre of world racing for 17 years to come”.
David Wright, chief executive of Northamptonshire Enterprise Ltd, said the race brought in 54 million pounds annually to the British economy with 94 percent of that spent within a 60 mile radius of the circuit.
Ecclestone has been a fierce critic of the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) that owns the circuit, with the run-up to the grand prix heralded unfailingly in recent years by the supremo threatening to remove it from the calendar.
Just as Ferraris are always red, so the British Grand Prix has always seemed to be in danger.
Even right up to Friday, when the deal was nailed down at last, Hill was not fully confident that there would be a race next year.
“I think it was too easy to assume that this would just naturally fall into place,” he said. “We’ve been through many twists and turns…but it was never a done deal, never a foregone conclusion.
“It could have changed at the last minute.”
PHOTO: Fans sit in front of a banner during the British Formula One Grand Prix at Silverstone, central England, June 21, 2009. REUTERS/Stephen Hird