I apologise for a lack of activity. I have been on the road all day long. This being Silverstone there are always additional things to be done as well as the Grand Prix and so it is a week-long trip away from home. So, I was up long before the sun today (which is not easy at this time of year) and consoled myself with a solid British breakfast before getting down to business. The stories have been thin on the ground since last week’s daft London Grand Prix waffle. I have had further discussions with people who know these things and in addition to the months of remodelling that would be necessary to create a circuit suitable for F1, the costs would be colossal, because the roads in question are old and there is a very pronounced crown on most of them. This would mean that they would have to be dug up and relaid, in addition to the creation of escape roads and run-off areas which would have to still exist after all the barriers were removed. This would all cost somewhere north of $200 million before getting into fees and annual build costs. One should also add that there would also be huge potential for loss of revenue legal actions from businesses on the route, which would scare away most of the lawyers.
Thus, I stick by my initial assessment that this was a useful bit of promotion for the British GP weekend, and a nice way to play down what happened in Germany, where the judge in the Gribkowsky case made some very damaging remarks when passing sentence on the German banker convicted of accepting a bribe from Bernie Ecclestone. These clearly suggested that this matter is not finished yet and we will be hearing about it again. Ecclestone says he has done nothing wrong and is currently faces no charges in Germany.
Meanwhile in Belgium, the Spa Grand Prix SA, the company which has been promoting the Belgian Grand Prix since 2006, under the leadership of politician/financier Etienne Davignon, is rumoured to be close to a new contract to secure the future of the race until after 2016.
The current contract runs out after this year’s race and the locals hope that they can reduce the annual losses by getting a lower fee agreed. Reports suggest that they have asked for a reduction from $21 million a year to $19 million. The idea of the race alternating with the French Grand Prix has been dropped completely.
The recent races at Spa have failed to attract big crowds, with losses each year in the region of $4-5 million. The local regional government has accepted these as the economic impact of the event is very important for the region. Although the current government will be in power until at least July 2014, the contract is for four years, from 2013 to 2016.
There are also still hopes that the organisation of Spa can be restructured. At the moment there is the Intercommunale Spa Francorchamps, which owns the property, on behalf of the Liege province; the Societe de Promotion du Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps (SPSF), a company owned and controlled by Wallonia region to run and develop the circuit and the Grand Prix company. There has been talk of merging these entities for years in order to streamline activities and the latest word is that this will now happen with the President of the Royal Automobile Club de Belgique (RACB) François Cornelis being put in charge. Cornelis is the former number two of the Total-Fina company, who retired from the oil company at the start of last year. He is also a member of the FIA World Council, thanks to his position as head of the Manufacturers’ Commission.