Donington reaches the end of the dream?

The Formula One group must today decide what to do about the future of the British Grand Prix following the news that the planned £135m bond issue has been withdrawn. The failure of the fund-raising scheme spells the end of Donington Park’s British Grand Prix dream and a new deal must now be struck with Silverstone to ensure that the race goes ahead. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with Silverstone. It has had a rocky relationship with Formula One chief executive Bernie Ecclestone, but he knows that it is an essential part of the F1 circus and the failure of the Donington Park plan is a clear sign that he must give up dreaming of alternatives and find a way to work with Silverstone.

Silverstone wants a new long term deal deal and this is the only logical solution. But while this may seem like a victory for the Northamptonshire circuit, it must also be aware that it needs to move with he times. Ecclestone’s primary beef with Silverstone has been that it has not done what it said it would do. Perhaps that was not easy given the financial demands of the Formula One group and the lack of help from the government. A little compromise on both sides would go a long way to solving the problems.

The real problem is that the structure of the F1 business takes too much away from the promoters and allows 50% of the money generated to leave the sport. If that problem can be solved then everyone in the sport will be better off. The venture capitalists have had their feast at the F1 table and the sport must now find a way to show them the door and retake control of its own destiny.

18 thoughts on “Donington reaches the end of the dream?

  1. Joe

    It’s not the venture capitalists’ fault – apart from paying too much for F1 – the problems have been caused by one man’s greed.

  2. There is a certain inevitability about this news. In recent months, the Donnington situation has been heading this way.

    So this is the chance for Silverstone but I am reading that Damon Hill is saying they want a similar contract, 17 years or so. Clearly Damon is in a strong position on the one hand because where else in Britain can Bernie go? Then again, I also wonder if Bernie now has the perfect excuse to drop Britain in favour of the Outer Zxyghistan Grand Prix who will pay to keep the CVC merry-go-round spinning.

    If Bernie listens to the fans, that is one thing but the old expression about money talking could not be more apt. I am not sure I would want to be Damon Hill in the next few days.

  3. I hope that Silverstone hold out for the right deal. Even if that means there will be no British Grand Prix next year, the Men In Blazers, should make a stand and force FOM to agree a basis that makes the event viable in the long term, and distributes the income fairly.

  4. Despite the financial issues attached to hosting an F1 GP Silverstone put on a fantastic show this year. The facilities compared to somewhere like Spa were excellent and I’ve got all my fingers crossed that a new long-term deal can be struck. I’m sure the people of Silverstone would be very happy for F1 to return there since it generate so much extra income.

    With GB having our own world champion again and parliament being motioned to congratulate the efforts of Brawn GP it would be a bit crap if the govenrment failed to show some form of financial thanks to a sport that consistently shows teh best of British ingenuity and engineering.

  5. Back in 2008 I remember reading the announcement that the British GP was moving from Silverstone to Donington with some dismay. Some friends were already at Silverstone for the GP and I knew the chances of them having heard the news were slim at that moment, so sent a text breaking the news and telling them to make sure they enjoyed themselves as there wouldn’t be too many more at their favourite circuit. They headed to the Racing Club clubhouse, where a few weeks before we had all sat sharing a beer and enjoying the F1 test session and called me. That call was one of initial emotion and shock, followed by slightly more disbelief that Donington, lovely circuit that it is, could ever be ready in time. We had all been there and we all knew the kind of expectations BCE would have put in place in terms of facilities, infrastructure and the track itself. We were sceptical to say the least that the Midlands circuit could possibly manage this given the time and financial requirements it would entail. The call ended with the deflated feeling that we would see the end of the British Grand Prix after 2009.

    I hope we were wrong on that last bit, I hope the slightly more ‘mature’ and business-like Silverstone can sit down and talk to a slightly less demanding Mr Ecclestone and hammer out a deal that will see F1 racing continue in this country. For all the teams that are based here, for the universities and colleges that are training the new generation of engineers and designers and most of all for the fans that make the trip every year to Northamptonshire. Oh yes, and for travel weary British F1 journalists that need a GP in their own back yard just to enjoy the rest from flights and airport lounges 😉

    Wishful thinking? Maybe, but you gotta have a few dreams….

  6. Hear hear with a brick for your final paragraph.

    Am I the only person who thinks that Bernie has stitched up Donington for his own weaselly ends ? Realistically there was never any chance they could find the necessary money. They’ve been lured into turning a perfectly good track, with the Moto GP and lots of other meetings, into a building site, just so that Bernie can play ducks and drakes with the BRDC.

  7. Has all this messed up Donnington as a venue for other events too?

    Grand Prix aside, can they afford to put the track back in order for next season?

  8. Not surprising the bond deal didn’t work, the numbers were crazy. Damon Hill should read this as a sign that its a buyer’s market right now and play hardball with Bernie over the fees and structure, as I am worried that Bernie might be trying to sell him a bag of goods at the top, locked in for 17 yrs. I suspect that the dollars assoc. with the sport, from sponsorship to salaries to ticket prices and hence the track promotion fees, will come down big time over the future. Anytime a player like Bernie looks like he’s about to let you in on something really good, better watch out !!

  9. There is a certain irony that against a new FIA led culture of cost cutting amongst teams, the FIA seemingly watches as FOM tours the globe seeking more ’emerging’ countries to ‘invest’ state funds in yet another state of the art complex with little or no motorsport infrastructure to use or support them and that will gather dust between GP’s, for which they will pay a hefty hosting fee.

    If circuits don’t make a profit or even break even, there is little point in them holding races merely to fill the bank accounts of FOM. Many of the European races are loss making and other countries like Australia are writing off huge losses again ‘tourism’, we can only wonder how long tax payers will foot the bill for those.

    With the Donington debacle coinciding with a new FIA president it would be opportune if the FIA extended their remit to cover the viablity of circuits hosting races, recognising that state funded venues will inevitably have a limited life only maintained by the interest of government departments.

    Therefore it is essential that traditional circuits are able to run viable Grand Prix, if FOM are unwilling to reduce their fees perhaps one way for this to be achieved is for the FIA to take a ‘development fee’ from new circuits which is divided between those deemed to be ‘traditional circuits’, recognising that what the new venues are buying into (and want to benefit from) has grown from and largely supported by the heartland of F1.

  10. “The venture capitalists have had their feast at the F1 table and the sport must now find a way to show them the door ….”

    Great idea Joe, but how? The venture capitalists own it, most of it anyway.

    Breakaway series anyone?

  11. While I’m sad at Donnington not being able to host another GP, I guess? I also think that this failure highlights some of the problems that F1 racing is going to have to confront, soon.
    The ability of one Bernard Charles Ecclestone to have brought F1 out of the dark age’s in terms of promotion has to be applauded. But the business cycle that has been going on with CVC/Ecclestone taking so much money out of the sport highlights the failure of a business model that will have to change, either by evolution or revolution, but it will have to change.
    The amounts of money that circuits are being asked to pay is too much in this economic climate. There has to be a flexible sliding scale based on what the product can command in a given market. Teams know it. The criminal way in which the FIA, Max Mosley, sold the sport to BCE should be addressed as soon as possible. Will this happen with Todt in charge? doubtful. Look at who his supporters were! The CVC payments to the FIA will cease in a couple of years and then the FIA will have to act if it is to survive. It cant survive on fining teams $100 million!
    So can Silverstone reach a deal with CVC to host another British GP? If they cant, then Damon will be the next to fall at the BRDC alter.

  12. Completely agree with joesaward…I was personally never in favour of the move to Donington.. I have had a slight chuckle since all of this has surfaced. How embarrassing for Gillet. Bernie is a businessman first and foremost but he really needs to understand that Silverstone is the face of British motor racing. They need to come to a deal asap. Now i know that Bernie is never going to give Damon and Silverstone the 17 year deal that was offered to Donington but if a 5 year deal was put on the table then silverstone should not waste any time.

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