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APRIL 23, 2004

Bernie fires a warning shot (again)

Even though Bernie Ecclestone has recently re-acquired the rights to run the British Grand Prix, this does not mean that the race is not under threat. Ecclestone says that Silverstone "has to come up to scratch" if it wants to stay on the F1 calendar. Ecclestone does not own the track which remains leased by its owner the British Racing Drivers' Club to the Interpublic Group. It is anticipated that Interpublic will buy itself out of that lease, which will give the BRDC a lump sum of money with which to rebuild the track.

Ecclestone said he would be happy to find a new promoter for the race but that is very unlikely to happen because the finaances of the event do not make sense unless there is outside investment because a Grand Prix contract takes away most of the sources of revenue from the promoter. It is possible that Allsport Management might take over a promotional role, as was the case a few years ago in Austria, but it is thought more likely that the event will be putt in the hands of Ecclestone's favourite race operator and fixer Philippe Gurdjian, who would run the race on Ecclestone's behalf.

Ecclestone said that unless there was investment from the BRDC "there will not be another Grand Prix in the UK in 2005".

This is not the first time that Ecclestone has said such things and it is considered by the F1 circus to be just another step in the negotiating process to get Bernie what he wants. The British GP could drop off the F1 calendar in trhe years ahead but in all likelihood it would be for only a year during which the track would be completely rebuilt.

The spotlight is now on the negotiations between Interpublic and the BRDC over the settlement of the lease. In a recent statement Interpublic estimated that that its commitment to Silverstone is $62m, an estimate based on early termination of the Silverstone lease in 2007. A percentage of this figure is the cost of this year's race but that still gives the BRDC a sizeable chunk of income in the next two years.

Everyone is still pushing for the British authorities to become involved.