The Formula 1 calendar continues to develop as the Formula One group tries to eradicate the remaining question marks over the 2010 dates. There remain doubts over Canada but everyone seems to think that these will be solved as F1 is keen to get back into the North American market.
There are also doubts over the British Grand Prix. Donington Park is now out of the picture as there is no money to do the necessary work. All that remains in that case is for Ecclestone to negotiate some kind of financial settlement. That will probably not be easy because the company involved will presumably seek bankruptcy protection at some point. As the promoter is in breach of contract (and perhaps also in breach of the circuit lease as well) there is little in the way of assets. The circuit will presumably revoke to the original owners – the Wheatcroft Family – and in time they will hopefully find a promoter with more realistic ideas who will run the track at a more sensible level.
The British Grand Prix deal will also be cancelled and as Ecclestone has no other choices, Silverstone will be the most likely venue. At the moment Silverstone and the Formula One group cannot agree terms. Silverstone says Ecclestone is asking for too much money, particularly as he has cut a deal with Hockenheim to help the Germans afford their race. Silverstone, quite rightly, argues that it is just as important an event as Germany and says that its offer to Ecclestone is as high as it can go without putting the circuit in financial danger.
Ecclestone’s view is that Silverstone should sign the deal on offer, which is $18m a year and a seven percent annual hike in the fees, or the race will not happen. However there is a danger in carrying through with this threat. The British motorsport industry wants the race to happen and failure to cut a deal will not help the reputation of the Formula One group. This is only relevant in that Ecclestone and his backers CVC Capital Partners need to consider the long-term danger of the F1 teams and the FIA getting together and refusing to work with him unless better terms are available. This could happen as early as 2013.
Ecclestone is brilliant at finding deals that keep everyone happy and the most likely solution to the current impasse is to get the teams to accept 20 races (which he has always wanted) with Britain and France both being offered deals. Both are considered to be important traditional events and both have struggled to survive. With a new French FIA President in Jean Todt and pressure from CVC to keep generating more money to help pay of the Formula One group debt, Ecclestone’s best strategy would probably be to offer Britain and France similar deals. The two together will generate more money than one higher-priced contract and the teams will accept the extra race as it is one of the least expensive on the calendar and will, of course, generate extra income for them. Todt will be happy as he will be a hero in France; Britain will have its Grand Prix back and he will have 20 races. And, as there is provision for traditional races in the deal between the Formula One group and the FIA, so he can justify doing such deals if other promoters come to him with their caps in their hands.
In other words it is a win-win situation for all concerned.
Bernie’s kind of deal.