Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has confirmed that he has entered into a new agreement with Silverstone that will allow the historic racing venue to host the British Grand Prix for the next 17 years, at an estimated cost of 300 million pounds (US $488 million).
At one point, it was thought that a new deal with Silverstone would never materialize. Ecclestone has been critical of the facility for at least a decade, and a provisional deal had been made with Donnington Park to move the race to that venue, instead. But Donnington was never able to meet its financial obligations to host the race, so Ecclestone was forced to either find an alternative, or scrap the British GP altogether.
Silverstone is owned and managed by the British Racing Drivers’ Club, whose current president is 1996 World Champion Damon Hill. Hill and the BRDC have been haggling with Ecclestone for many months trying to secure a deal. Unfortunately, the new economy of Formula 1 has been nudging the sport towards developing nations where governments are willing to subsidize the high cost of hosting a race, as a form of economic stimulus.
The more established venues in Europe and the Americas have been unable to compete with this. However, with the deterioration of the global economy in general, it might be that Ecclestone has had to adjust his expectations. In light of the current global recession, one suspects that many countries might think twice about using Formula 1 races as expensive loss leaders to boost their local economies.
Global economics woes not withstanding, Ecclestone claims he’s leaving money on the table. As reported in the Daily Express, Ecclestone insisted he could have squeezed more money from other bidders. “Definitely, a lot more, an awful lot more,” said Ecclestone. “There are other places desperate for races but there was no more money in Europe.”
Ecclestone elaborated by saying, “I got fed up with the whingeing and moaning. It has taken too long, but now Silverstone can get on with it for years to come and make a fortune. I am happy, Silverstone is happy and we have a British GP for years to come unless they make a mess of it.”