Testing times for the future of the British Grand Prix

doningtonparkplanoct08-lgAs yet another deadline passes on the redevelopment of Donington Park, asks if there is now any chance of a British Grand Prix in 2010?

With the ominous “Crash-gate” saga, the whirling driving market and the ongoing title fight it is hard to blame the casual Formula One fan for forgetting about the future of the British Grand Prix.

Certainly while Formula One has morphed into an oversized game of Cluedo this summer, Donington Park has been able to slip off the radar and continue to remain silent on the speculated £80m redevelopment of the circuit.

A significant lack of media coverage has allowed Simon Gillett and his associates to remain tight-lipped about the venture, and although this has taken the pressure off the promoters, it can no longer be guaranteed that Formula One will stage a British Grand Prix in 2010.

As the weeks have become months, promises of news and action have continued to be broken by the Derbyshire circuit, so much so that no major construction work has been completed on the project.

Gillett has long been bullish about Donington s chances and has continued to assure British fans that work would begin in late summer, after the circuit s major events – including Moto GP. This is now Autumn.

For the first time in weeks, Bernie Ecclestone commented on the situation in Singapore last weekend and announced that he had extended Donington s deadline until the 3rd of October. This deadline has seemingly now passed given Ecclestone s latest comments to a British newspaper.

“They pleaded for extra time and have had several deadlines, [so] it’s 9 October to show me they have the finances in place or we will be finished with Donington,” Ecclestone is reported, by some online sources, to have told the Daily Express.

So as Donington Park continues to walk Ecclestone s tightrope what does this mean for the future of the British Grand Prix and more importantly the British fans?

With so much uncertainty surrounding the event, tickets have yet to be put on sale. For the past few years October has been crucial for the Grand Prix s promoters, with early-bird tickets usually being a hit with the general public.

Furthermore the BRDC, which owns Silverstone, has reiterated its desire to sign a new long-term contract with Ecclestone and will seemingly not be drawn into signing a one-year deal to stage next year s race.

“If Donington does not happen, then you have to ask yourself what that says about the decision to look into it in the first place,” Damon Hill, the BRDC President, told the Guardian newspaper, “In those circumstances, it would be nice to think that we could get round a table with FOM (Formula One Management) and put to bed once and for all the uncertainty over the future of the British Grand Prix.”

For Silverstone to act as a stand-in is simply not acceptable for the future of the event. It is clearly not commercially viable given FOM s rising race sanctioning fees and the huge effort required to promote and stage a Grand Prix.

Even more worrying is the notion that if Silverstone accepted the one-year offer then the Donington project would be given a year s reprieve, allowing the circuit to once more bury its head in the sand and disappear into obscurity.

What the world of Formula One needs now is clear answers about the future of the event – be it at Silverstone or at Donington.

Of course, if Donington can raise the necessary funds and complete their construction work on time then a British Grand Prix would be very welcome around the famous circuit. However news of its proposals must be swift if the project is to gain any credibility and regain the confidence of the British fans.

Donington should no longer continue to be given chance after chance, deadline after deadline. As time continues to slip away, so does any legitimate solution. Silverstone will not continue to play back-up for long, given its own intentions to redevelop.

These are testing times for the Northamptonshire circuit and the hoards of British fans. As Silvertone battles to save the Grand Prix, Donington continues to let it seemingly die a silent death.

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