Winners and losers in the Silverstone deal for the British Grand Prix
December 8, 2009
There are undoubtedly winners and losers in the recent announcement that Silverstone had secured a seventeen year deal to run the British Grand Prix from 2010 to 2028, with a ten year ‘get out’ clause for either party. The first, and most important winner is the British Grand Prix, although F1 is very much a global activity, there is no doubt of the importance of the British Grand Prix to both those teams that reside in the UK and to F1 as a whole. The second winner has to be Silverstone and, in particular, Damon Hill, Richard Philips and their negotiating team, who appear to have built the kind of relationship with the F1 Commercial Rights Holder (Bernie Ecclestone) that had been impossible for previous management teams. The loser is of course Donington, and although Donington was often portrayed as the ‘upstart’ in this story, it should not be forgotten that Donington is a circuit of historic standing – it regularly ran Grand Prix races in the 1930s, and also hosts one of the greatest collections of Grand Prix machinery in the world. It is a tragedy that it is now left disfigured in the initial attempts to rebuild it as a base for the British Grand Prix. Furthermore Donington have also lost the British round of Moto GP to Silverstone which they hosted in 2009.
The interesting question for me is whether or not there has been some kind of government support to enable the deal to be made. Certainly there have been no fanfares on this subject, but given the history between the current government and F1 it is perhaps unsurprising that this is the case – remember the special exemption granted to tobacco sponsorship at the British Grand Prix and then Bernie’s donation to the labour party coming to light? Well even if you don’t, a lot of politicians do! If you were a member of a private club would you commit to making a large pay out for seventeen years (estimated at £310 million) without any guarantee on revenues?