There has been a rather odd lack of noise about Donington Park’s failure to meet the terms of its Race Promotion Contract with Formula One Administration. This means that the plan to hold the British Grand Prix at the Leicestershire track is now not going to happen. According to Simon Gillette at the start of the project, the work needed to get the track ready for F1 required nine and 10 months. The race is scheduled for July 11 2010, which means that the time available is now eight and half months and while it is always possible that corners could be cut, the fact remains that nothing will be done until the money is in place and that is now not going to happen as the last-ditch attempt to raise money with a bond issue flopped. It may be that things are quiet as the Formula One group has no desire to publicly accept that its plan to switch the race from Silverstone to Donington has failed. The failure is ultimately that of Gillette and his backers but the Formula One group went along with the plan, unrealistic though it seemed. The only way that there can now be a British Grand Prix is at Silverstone and the Northamptonshire circuit is insisting that it be given a decent long-term deal, in the knowledge that the F1 teams have made it clear to the Formula One group that they want the race retained on the calendar. The Formula One group has always argued that it cannot give Silverstone special treatment, however that argument has been undermined somewhat in recent months with the news that the German Grand Prix was saved with a special deal for Hockenheim.
The other question that will inevitably come is what now happens to Donington Park. Traditionally, Formula One Administration’s race contracts include clauses related to penalties if the promoter defaults on an agreement. In the past the Formula One group has often made money on such failures. Given that the deal agreed with Donington was for 17 years, with a deal worth £18m a year and an annual increase of seven percent (which is rather better than the usual 10%) the circuit theoretically owes the Formula One group hundreds of millions and while it is saying that it will not pursue the matter, that is a dangerous course of action as other circuits may decide to risk defaulting if he does nothing against Donington.
The future of the circuit remains unclear at the moment but the ultimate owners remain the Wheatcroft Family.