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  Sunday, 7 July, 2002, 14:27 GMT 15:27 UK
Ecclestone slams Silverstone
The opening of the new bypass near Silverstone
The new bypass appears to have eased traffic problems

Bernie Ecclestone has slammed organisers of the British Grand Prix and raised further doubts about the future of Silverstone as a Formula One circuit.

Despite the success of road improvements that seemed to end the traffic jams which have blighted the event for years, Ecclestone laid into promoter Octagon Motorsports.

And he refused to say whether the circuit had done enough this year to guarantee its place on the F1 calendar next year.


It's worse this year than it has ever been - the way they look after the public, or don't look after them
Bernie Ecclestone

"We'll see what happens," said the F1 boss, who has been one of Silverstone's severest critics in recent years.

He conceded that the traffic flow was much better than in previous years after a road-building programme and a decision to cut the crowd by a third.

He said the changes seemed to "have passed all right". But he said much work remained to be done.

He singled out the organisation of the public inside the circuit for particular criticism.

"I didn't come by road but I went round the circuit and I thought the general organisation was pretty bad really - inside the circuit.

"There were no signs. Nobody knew where anybody was going, nobody knew who was doing what. It was complete disorganisation.

"Inside the paddock is all right, and the roads thank God are all right.

"But the rest of it is typical. In fact, it's worse this year than it has ever been - the way they look after the public, or don't look after them."

Ecclestone believes that Silverstone is a shabby place that has not kept up with the times.

Octagon boss Rob Bain dismissed Ecclestone's remarks as "ridiculous".

"It's not a fair criticism at all," he added. "We have done 1,500 customer surveys and one of the questions was were the signage and police directions good - and 75% said yes.

The crowds have been reduced at Silverstone
Silverstone has cut the crowds this year

"It comes down to the fact that the helicopters couldn't land, Bernie got lost and he's not happy."

Max Mosley, the president of motorsport's governing body the FIA, was unavailable for comment.

Octagon decided to cut the crowd to 60,000 as a precaution this year to see if the road improvements had been a success.

And Bain was confident that he can free up 90,000 tickets for next year's event without causing problems.

Bain said that "in hindsight" he wished he had made all the tickets available for this year's event - but that he could not risk it because the revised A43 may not have been completed in time.


The grandstands are always empty on a Saturday
Octagon boss Rob Bain

"What we don't want to do is compromise traffic ever again, because when people say Silverstone the image pictured is what the papers printed in that awful April 2000 event," he said.

"You picture mud, and we need to reverse that image so people come in to the event in an easy fashion.

"That's the image Silverstone has to portray and we're not going to compromise that by ramping capacity to a level that creates traffic problems.

Bain said that he could now go ahead with the second phase of his improvement plan - which is to upgrade the pit complex.

Bain defended the 45 car-parking fee by saying that the idea was to encourage people to use the free park-and-ride service.

He said that advance ticket sales for Friday and Saturday were up, but long-time race-goers were convinced that the circuit was emptier than they had seen before.

Price hikes

Grandstands along the pit straight were less than half full for qualifying - and the same went for many enclosures around the track.

Octagon has controversially hiked the ticket prices for this year's event.

Anyone who bought tickets after November last year was forced to buy a three-day pass at a price of 199.

Tickets to individual days were only freed up in the weeks before the event.

"The grandstands are always empty on a Saturday," he said, "because people use the chance to move around, which they can't on Sunday."

Tickets for next year's race will be on sale at 2001 prices until the end of September, Bain said.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Sports minister Paul Caborn
"We've done a tremendous job"
Jackie Stewart
"We've made such big steps forward"
In-depth guide to the 2002 Formula One season

On-track action

Our man at Silverstone

Jonathan Legard

F1 2002
Links to more Formula One stories are at the foot of the page.


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