Bernie Ecclestone has revealed that the British Grand Prix will disappear from the F1 calendar if Donington does not manage to put the race on next season.
Yesterday Simon Gillett’s Donington Ventures group, the promoter of the event at the Midlands circuit, suffered a major blow when legal proceedings were launched by the circuit’s owners, Wheatcroft and Son for £2.5 million in unpaid rent. The Wheatcrofts are also seeking forfeiture of the 150 year lease.
Ecclestone said that he had spoken to Gillett during the day and attacked the British Government for not investing in one of its largest annual sporting events.
“It’s a disgrace that the British Government don’t step in to help,” Ecclestone told the Telegraph. “They are throwing billions at the London Olympics. They could do what is needed to save the race by putting in a fraction of it, 0.002 per cent.
“If Donington can’t put on the British Grand Prix then that’s it. We will be leaving Britain. There is no question of us going back to Silverstone, they have had enough chances and have not delivered what they promised.
“I’ve been in talks with Simon [Gillett] today and we’ve been talking through the money situation. I’m trying to help him sort things out. What he really needs is an investor, that’s the best hope of saving the race.”
Gillett bought the British Grand Prix in a dawn raid last July. He planned to finance the venture with a debenture scheme, similar to the one used at Wembley Stadium. But the timing seems to have been bad, with the full awfulness of the credit crunch hitting home barely three months after the deal was signed. Gillett said that he would announce details of the debenture scheme at the end of March. So far no details have been forthcoming.
It has long been speculated in F1 circles that Ecclestone might step in and take over the event at Donington. Some even believe he may have some kind of plan to turn it into the world’s finest race track as part of his legacy.
But if Ecclestone cannot own the circuit, it’s not clear how or why he would do this. The track’s ownership lies with the Wheatcroft family, while Silverstone is owned by the British Racing Drivers Club and is ringfenced.