This week has been a busy one in terms of F1 news. Everyone continued talking about Button taking the drivers’ title even days after the Brazilian GP, Donington fell through and Bernie was reported saying that we don’t need a British Grand Prix anyway. Then, Jean Todt was elected president of the FIA.
So, this week I have a choice of topics to discuss, but I thought seeing as I am indeed British, I would talk about the British Grand Prix, what it means to the sport, and indeed us Brits, and that comment made by Bernie…. I know SJ has already got you debating this one, but let’s face it, it’s a topic that’s likely to continue until it is finally sorted. Whether that means we wait days or weeks to hear the fate of the British GP, only time will tell…
The future of the British Grand Prix has been up and down like a yo-yo in recent weeks, and if you’ve lost the thread then no one would blame you. One minute Donington doesn’t have the funds, the next Bernie Ecclestone is giving them a lifeline.
But this Monday, it seemed that lifeline had finally run out. After last Friday when it was announced that Donington couldn’t raise the money for the circuit to host next year’s British GP, Silverstone was reported to be in talks with the FIA to take over.
But Bernie has been quoted saying: “Do we need a British Grand Prix? No.”
Seeing as the British GP has such a history, is this really a fair comment? Or is it just Bernie being Bernie—is he dumbing it down to make it seem less like a necessity for the fans, when it’s really all about the money? In reality the British GP is an iconic event that would be sorely missed if it was not on the F1 calendar.
For Bernie to say that we do not need a British GP is like saying you can make a cake without any eggs. The UK is the backbone of Formula One—we currently have two British world champions on the grid, and with many of the teams based in the UK, is a Formula One season without a British Grand Prix justifiable?
Many would say it isn’t. The British GP has been held at Silverstone every year for the past 22 years, with the last race at Donington in 1993, appearing as the European Grand Prix. To lose it now, would be a disaster.
This week, former world champion Damon Hill said he fears that Bernie will go elsewhere to look for a venue, instead of going back to Silverstone, like he said he would at this year’s race when it looked, even then, to be uncertain as to whether Donington would be able to work it out.
Hill told BBC Radio Five Live: “F1 can go anywhere in the world and get a huge amount of money. That’s what Bernie’s wrestling with. But it’s not his job to give a discounted job to the UK.”
But when you think of just how many fans the race attracts in a weekend, you have to consider whether it would be a mistake not to reach some sort of agreement. This year over 300,000 people attended Silverstone, whereas circuits such as Turkey were practically empty. That number shows how popular historical tracks such as Silverstone are.
But the issue for Bernie where Silverstone is concerned is the facilities and unless he gets what he asks for, you can almost guarantee he’ll pull the track from the calendar without much thought. But when that means sacrificing a major race from the F1 season, should that really be how it works?
Let’s face it, some of the new tracks—Valencia for example—hold very little in the way of excitement where wheel-to-wheel racing is concerned, and while the European GP this year scored a whopping zero for overtaking manoeuvres, Silverstone at least saw the reigning world champion pull a move on former teammate Alonso in front of his home crowd. When you look at it like that, how can you justify dropping Britain from the calendar, only to be replaced by a brand-new circuit that may have little hope of seeing the drivers racing at their best?
So, British Grand Prix or no British Grand Prix, that is the question? What is F1 without it?
Me, I’m sticking with the making a cake with no eggs theory, because that is the same as F1 without Britain on the calendar.