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Bernie – No Donington means no British GP
Bernie – No Donington means no British GP
Posted By:   |  24 Apr 2009   |  5:45 am GMT  |  33 comments

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.

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Ha! Donington in its current guise was never going to happen. This though is / was all part of the grand plan and is merely the flash bang to generate further panic and worry.

At some point I believe the government may crack and fund the event by dint of the investment in facilities at Silverstone! I am sure that there are still discussions on-going between FOM / Allsport and Silverstone about the event in 2010 for instance, sure too that Santander are re-negotiating their deal with Allsport as title sponsor of the event for another three years.

Donington is just going to be the pawn in the game. You will see.

Richard Williams

If Ecclestone thinks the British public will tolerate money being spent on F1 then he can whistle.

Every single tax payer will be carrying a huge tax burden that this government has lumbered us with for the next twenty years or so. Funding the Bernie and Max show will not be a priority. Let Silverstone run it and stop grizzling.


"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."

He only has one track in mind, and that is blasting through the streets of London. He will get it.


Bernie has wanted to dump Britain from the calendar for years, he must be loving this. Why it is so vital for him to slap every English team, fan, and fellow countryman in the face like this I have no idea, it and aspect of English culture that I wish I could fathom.


Hey Mr E, can we have a second race in Oz then? We seem to organise F1 GPs better than anywhere else in the world.

We still use Adelaide for the V8 supercars and the race could start 30 mins later than Melbourne (different timezone). This way, we can accomodate European viewers.

Just a thought...


Bernie Ecclestone makes me so angry. I cannot believe he has the gall to complain about the government failing to put up a huge stack of cash for his benefit. If we do lose the British GP I think we're all going to know who's to blame and it's not going to be anyone at Westminster.


[Comment moderated] Silverstone may not be the greatest track in the world but it's still got a great deal going for it in every other respect. It's got a huge support base of genuine enthusiasts, not rent-a-mob bussed in to fill near empty stadia in the back of beyond in countries which have no widespread interest in the sport at all. It's also got decades of tradition as well. For the country which is the home of modern grand prix racing, and indeed the home of the world's motor racing industry, not to have its own grand prix is really nothing other than macchiavellian scheming by a greedy megalomaniac intent on getting his own way whatever the cost. But I guess that's been painfully obvious for a very long time.


when germany has a WDC, they get two races, when spain gets a WDC, they get two races, when britain gets a wdc.... we get nothing.

Donnington was never going to be able to host a sucessful race, bernie knew that. this is all part of one of his plans, i just dont like where its going.

The Kitchen Cynic

Donington and Silverstone fighting over the GP - two bald men fighting over a comb.


This definitely sounds like the death-nell of the British GP.

Fair enough, while I dont like it you have to agree with Bernie. I mean Silverstone as a track is absolutely right up there with the likes of Spa, watching F1 cars blast through Maggots & Becketts has to be one of the top sites in F1, up there with Eau Rouge.

But, just look at Singapore, Australia, Sao Paulo for chrissakes! The event is just that, an event that the whole country can be proud of. We brits have been taking it for granted.

I see the British GP disppearing, then coming back in a blaze of glory updated circuit and all and we'll all look back and see this as a good thing.....

I hope...


Bernie got stuck in traffic going to Silverstone and he's never forgiven them.

Everyone wants to have the British GP Silverstone. [Moderated]


[Moderated] As the UK is the biggest revenue maker for F1 I think this could have a serious impact on the sport as with no British GP there will be many people switching off altogether. I for one will not be watching F1 next year if the poison dwarf lets the British GP go. In fact I may well start a website up to encourage every fan in Britain to boycott F1. In fact all F1 fans across the world should be getting very worried, Silverstone is an excellent track with a rich history. Bernie seems to care not for Racing and would rather shut down the great circuits in favour of the unbelievably dull new circuits in the far east. How many more classic tracks need to close before F1 dies for good?


The problem is that most people only see one thing in the press these days from Ecclestone - whinging.

There was a time when he did good stuff for the F1 but he is in danger of having a legacy of anti-British bitterness.

C'mon Bernie lets see something positive!


“It’s a disgrace that the British Government don’t step in to help” says bernie. actually, what i think is disgraceful is setting such a high price for a track to put on F1 that governments need to get involved just to afford it - basically, he is saying that the british government should give him lots of taxpayers money. is there really no limit to the mans greed?

he goes on to say that silverstone has failed to deliver its promises and that they have had their chance. what exactly were these promises? good road access? (something that donington lacks). done - access is very good. good garages? (something that donnington lacks). they are fine - having worked in the garages of almost every GP over the last few years, silverstones are far from the worst. safety? it's fine - plenty of run-off and good marshalls, anyway you can hardly claim to be championing safety when you mandate the use of unsuitable tyres and run F1 at tracks with no run-off. so what else is there, what else has silverstone failed to deliver bernie, apart from money?


I don't care where F1 races are held so long as the tracks are good and facilitate enjoyable races.

If the UK can't get its act together, then let Bernie move to race somewhere else - it really doesn't matter.

I really don't want tax payers to pay for F1 ... why on earth should people who struggle to pay their monthly bills have to spend money setting up a track so millionaires can come along and drive cars and people like Bernie can stuff their pockets with cash.

If Bernie wants the UK to have a GP, then he's got enough cash to sort things out. But he should shut up with all the griping and moaning and trying to rip the tax payer off. F1 is a minority sport and the tax payer shouldn't have to support it in any way.


Bernie won't let it drop off... if that was his agenda it would've gone last time they renegotiated (he compromised his stance in the end did he not?)

He'll stamp around and deflect blame everywhere - he's obviously under a lot of pressure to deliver a certain number of zero's from each race to CVC (or whoever) - and it's hard to ignore the fact that there is a queue of developing countries at the door with fewer scruples about allocating scant resources to an F1 party - and a lot more cash than blighty.

BUT, at heart I believe he's just a nostalgic racing man. he'll find some way to keep the suits at bay... I really don't want to believe he'll turn away from a Brit GP come crunch time. If he does, that's his conscience - but when you have so much money it is immaterial you need to trade in other currencies such as respect - and he will loose so much homegrown respect if he made that call that he wouldn't live long enough to get it back - and that would be his twisted legacy. Alternatively, he could personally stump-up.. .what a national hero!


“It’s a disgrace that the British Government don’t step in to help”

I really want there to be a British Grand Prix, but F1 is like a massive whirlpool of money (a bit smaller since the credit crunch) with Bernie sitting at the bottom of it like the Kraken. No democratic government is going to shovel money down Bernie's throat, especially not this one, and nor should they. They had enough trouble with **receiving** money from him.


Sport is sport. It's a form of entertainment, and as such has to be self-funding.

I don't want my taxes to go towards supporting the British GP, but I DO want the money I pay for a British GP weekend ticket to go towards supporting the British GP, rather than lining the pockets of the various individuals and banks that take money out of the sport.

People like B.E. have a total right to make a profit from the work they do, but there comes a point when this becomes rather grotesque...


Simple answer is,if not going back to Silverstone under licence,then Bernie steps in and takes over lease and builds new track,lets face it,the lease was for 150 years,even Bernie won`t last long,and in 150 years time who will really care about F1.


I think accepting government money would be a slippery slope, if they then decide to take away that cash input then we'd probably be left in a worse position than we're in now.

The problem here seems to be that Bernie is expecting unreasonable things from private circuit owners, obviously they're not going to be able to throw money at a circuit like an eastern government, but that doesn't mean the circuit is unworthy of the sport. I mean Montreal is the obvious example of a circuit that's fallen into disrepair, and I think it was the correct decision to drop it until they can sort that out, but Silverstone has only improved over recent years.

On the subject of whether Britain deserves a GP more than other countries, well it would seem odd that there's no race in the country most of the teams are based in, but I dont feel it's any different to America losing both GPs, which economically is a far larger market. Neither Silvestone or Donnington are particularly vital to the feel of F1, as long as Spa and Monaco are here we'll always have that history.

If we do end up losing the grand prix I would hope some absurdly rich person decides to take it on himself to inject cash into a circuit and we could maybe return a few years hence, maybe after Bernie retires.


You can always replace the British by reinstating the Canadian GP.


we all say he[moderated] shouldn't get his own way but the reality is that he has plenty of government's and country's lining up for races all happy to pay what he wants.Why would you waste your time all the older circuit's all updated and got there gp's back even france is seriously looking at paris.Bernie wants London and he will get it eventually and truth be told I'd catch the tube and get off at the circuit than stomp through fields of mud up to my knee's or find the eco green alternative transport to the track.


There is no "if" - we lose the British GP - it's gone.

B.E. has seen to that.

The little man knew donnington was never going to be ready, and he has stated several times that Silverstone would not get it back, so...

And the British government should not finance the race merely to line his pockets.


In this context the latest on this story is the reported comment (today on Planet F1) from a certain well known knight of the realm that the "Government will only have itself to blame if Britain loses its grand prix". If that isn't certifiably half-witted nonsense, I don't know what is. We have a perfectly useable grand prix circuit at the moment, which can readily be filled twice over with genuine enthusiasts. That is more than can be said for the the boring soulless government tracks that the sport has spawned overseas. The only reason that Silverstone can't be used is due to a vendetta which has been staged in an attempt to push this government into their characteristic modus operandi of throwing taxpayers' money at anything which they can be persuaded to take fright at.

The one and only person who can be blamed if Britain loses its grand prix is the man who has decided that it is going to lose it, no-one else, and certainly not this government of fools and incompetents, who in this context are, unbelievably just at this moment, acting sensibly in refusing to be taken in by all the special pleading. Unfortunately on past performance we know that it probably won't be long before they turn tail and run, and give in, which of course is precisely why the pressure is being applied in this way.


Bernie doesn't care a hoot for fans. He has completely alienated the whole of North America. Having brought it back to the US and then snatched it away, the whole equity has been squandered.

Last year to get our Indianapolis "speed fix" we went to the Moto GP (which got rained out!).

This year we do not even have the option of Montreal that has always drawn huge, loyal crowds. Avid fans like to go to races, smell the fumes, hear the engines scream... not sit on couches and watch TV. I can not imagine UK petrol head fans being denied a local venue after all these years.


If you want to blame somebody for the sport's demise in the US then you'll need to look slightly higher. As I recall it was Bernie who fought with the team principals to deliver the *full* event for the fans at Indianapolis in 2005 after the Michelin issues but Mosely (for whatever political motivation was at the forefront of his mind that week) who dialled in from his sitting room in the UK and refused to allow it.


What a rubbish post. You'll be suggesting Bernie is only in it for the money next.


I agree too.

(then again, I would do as I said it first!)



Hear hear! Very well said.


With Boris Johnson as Mayor, you might be right. But not before a Conservative government takes power -- and probably not even then, unless Bernie is willing to negotiate on price.

As it stands right now, I can't quite see how London can afford to distract itself with planning yet another high-profile event. Won't be good for popularity to have the politicians, bankers, and money-guzzling sporting events all at the same place...


Stewart's comments aren't surprising, given that he headed up the BRDC for several years.

The BRDC are to blame for this mess. Not Bernie.

Britain has had a massively privileged position for many years, paying less for its GP than any other venue while getting away with having below-average facilities. Bernie asked for improvements to be made, the BRDC said they would make improvements, they even went as far as drawing up plans but never had any intention of implementing them.

So Bernie called their bluff and gave the GP to Donington and Simon Gillett, an ambitious man who is, unfortunately for him, in the wrong place at the wrong time. Trying to finance a major construction project in the UK during a recession was never going to be easy. But if the BRDC had spent maybe a tenth of what Gillett was looking to spend on Donington, this problem would never have arisen.

It's convenient to blame Bernie and his so-called "vendetta" against the BRDC. But it was years of mismanagement and lies from that very organisation that spelt the death knell for the British GP, not Bernie. For him it's just business - no British GP won't hurt motorsport any more than having no French GP this year is doing.


No George, "New Labour" governments work differently, look at all the high profile government funded projects. They have no idea how to purchase, no clue how to specify and FIX the specification, no idea of penalty clauses. Their idea is to just keep paying more when the contractor says the price has gone up.
So Donington could do very well- eventually- After it has gone bust and Bernie has bought the assets for nothing out of national pride (which suddenly re-appeared) he will persuade Brown that it is a worthwhile investment. However Tom Wheatcroft reclaiming/rescinding the lease may give Bernie more expense than he bargained for. But with the track in "disarray" littered with bulldozers and no income, then TW may succumb to a lesser offer for the rent.
Or am I just being cynical? 😉
Donningto was a great circuit even before the started "improving" it. Do I gather correctly that all and sundry will have to park about 10 miles away and come in by bus? I think I would rather queue for the camp site at Silverstone.


You're dead right about Donington's role in all this, and Bernie is right about the gigantic waste of money which is the Olympics. But how can he expect a government to fund huge interest payments to Merchant Bankers (in every sense) as a result of his own leveraged sale ? He only gets his huge fees (with an increase every year way over inflation) in places like China and bahrain because the governments of those countries are not accountable to their taxpayers. In England that is not, by and large, the case.

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