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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 October, 2004, 13:07 GMT 14:07 UK
New hope for Silverstone
By Andrew Benson
Motorsport editor

David Coulthard's McLaren at this year's British Grand Prix
The British GP has been on the F1 calendar since 1950
The British Grand Prix saga is far from over, despite the apparent success of a meeting of Formula One team bosses in finding a solution to keep the race on the calendar in 2005.

Nine of the 10 teams have agreed to foot the bill for the race by reducing testing.

But F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone still has to come to a commercial agreement with Silverstone's owner the British Racing Drivers' Club, and Ferrari have to accept the deal.

The 2005 calendar not published until 10 December, so there is still plenty of time for a deal to be made - or not.

WHAT IS THE CRUX OF THE ISSUE?

Ecclestone wants there to be a British Grand Prix, but at a track that matches his high standards and at his price.

Unlike the new venues in Malaysia, China and Bahrain, Silverstone is not funded by a government so cannot afford to spend hundreds of millions on lavish facilities.

Nor can the BRDC afford to run the race at a loss, which it says is what would happen if it accepted Ecclestone's current offer.

DOES ECCLESTONE DECIDE THE RACE'S FATE?

Yes. He owns the promotional rights to the race, and in his role as F1's commercial supremo, organises the calendar. If he wants to drop it, he can.

But the team's latest deal - brokered with Ecclestone - means that there are in theory no obstacles to an agreement - as long as the BRDC accept the latest deal when it is put to it.

DOES ECCLESTONE HAVE A HIDDEN AGENDA?

Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone
Ecclestone is exasperated with the BRDC - but the feeling is mutual
Almost certainly, but no-one knows what it is.

Many believe he wants to end up controlling the British GP at Silverstone, or even owning the track, which he denies.

The issue is not helped by a long-held antagonism between Ecclestone and the BRDC, the roots of which are lost in the mists of motor racing history.

Ecclestone and BRDC president Jackie Stewart have also had a difficult relationship for at least three decades.

WHEN IS THE DEADLINE?

The official 2005 F1 calendar is published on 10 December, but even if Silverstone is not on that list, its fate is not necessarily sealed - last year the French Grand Prix was not confirmed until January.

HOW CAN SILVERSTONE SECURE ITS GRAND PRIX?

The BRDC needs to seal a deal for the promotional rights to the race, which are owned by Ecclestone following the decision of US company Interpublic to extricate itself from its loss-making motorsport business.

The issues holding up progress boil down to the length and price of the contract.

Ecclestone will want any deal to include provision for the improvement of the Silverstone site.

Some say the BRDC could help itself a bit more by developing its massive grounds, either with a new track, or into a multi-use area generating income, rather than just as a racetrack and driving school.

This is an approach favoured by the Nigel Mansell-backed Brand Synergy consortium, to which the BRDC has given a cool response so far.

WHAT WAS WRONG WITH ECCLESTONE'S OFFER?

The BRDC wants a two-year deal followed by talks over the next five seasons, while Ecclestone is offering a one-year deal with an option on the following six.

Michael Schumacher takes the chequered flag at Silverstone in 2004
Silverstone's large crowds are not enough to cover Ecclestone's fee
The BRDC says Ecclestone's offer does not give it the security it needs to embark on a major redevelopment of Silverstone; Ecclestone says it is non-negotiable.

Another major sticking point is Ecclestone's asking price for the race.

Although he has reduced the fee for 2005, the deal calls for 10% compounded interest over the next seven years, which the BRDC says it cannot afford.

The only revenue a host track can generate is through ticket sales. All other monies from the staging of an F1 Grand Prix are trousered by Ecclestone.

Ecclestone is offering the BRDC the cheapest contract in F1, but even at this price the club says it cannot afford to pay without risking bankrupting itself.

SHOULD THE GOVERNMENT HELP FINANCIALLY?

Depends on your point of view.

The "No" camp would say a shortfall of a couple of million seems like small beer but that is just the thin end of the wedge - fork out this year and next year Ecclestone increases the price a bit more and so on.

Governments in places like China, Malaysia and Bahrain are funding Grands Prix as a promotional tool, but for how long? Britain doesn't need to do that and critics would argue that the money would be better spent elsewhere.

BRDC president and triple world champion Jackie Stewart
Stewart wants financial help from the government
The "Yes" camp would say the race is a vital cog in the future of the British motor industry and the sport's heritage, not to mention the UK's credibility for hosting events such as the Olympics.

And if the government can back a multi-million-pound 2012 Olympic bid for a two-week event, why not a race that happens every year?

But the government says it has already pumped 16m into the motor industry and 8m into the circuit to improve access and facilities.

COULD THE BRITISH GRAND PRIX GO ANYWHERE ELSE?

Not really. Donington Park in Leicestershire is the closest in terms of facilities but is still a long way off.

A race around the streets of London would take several years to be finalised, even if the anticipated mass protest over traffic, cost and noise pollution it would spark from residents of the capital could be overcome.

WHY SHOULD BRITAIN HOLD A GRAND PRIX?

It's an image and heritage thing.

Britain is the centre of the world's motorsport industry - although it is highly unlikely that the F1 teams based in the south-east would leave the UK if the country lost its race.

And the race's supporters argue that a major political and economic power and a proud sporting nation should be able to stage a Grand Prix once a year.

Britain is also one of only two countries to have held a Grand Prix every year since the inception of the F1 world championship - the other being Italy.

Fans say losing Silverstone, one of the last remaining classic tracks, along with Spa, Monza, Suzuka and Monaco, would render the sport soulless.

These older tracks, they say, often produce better racing than the modern computer-designed autodromes. And if all races are held on similar tracks with the same team and driver winning, the argument is that viewers will eventually switch off.

IS THIS TO DO WITH A TOBACCO AD BAN?

Probably not. There is likely to be a worldwide ban at some stage and teams will have to find the money in other ways.

They already use liveries which resemble cigarette brands without actually stating what they are and even are looking into developing this idea further when a tobacco ban does come into force.




SEE ALSO
Ecclestone ends British GP talks
20 Oct 04 |  Formula One
British GP still uncertain
07 Oct 04 |  Formula One
Ecclestone slams Silverstone
30 Sep 04 |  Formula One
British GP axed
30 Sep 04 |  Formula One
BRDC backs Silverstone
07 Sep 04 |  Formula One
Silverstone sell-out boost
16 Jul 04 |  Formula One
Stewart hits back in GP row
07 Jul 04 |  Formula One
New threat hits British GP
06 Jul 04 |  Formula One
BRDC regains Silverstone
06 Jul 04 |  Motorsport
London GP 'could happen'
06 Jul 04 |  Formula One


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