A new battle over the British Grand Prix

Jenson Button, British GP 2004

Jenson Button, British GP 2004 

 © The Cahier Archive

The GPWC is already sliding into a position that puts the Formula One group in a difficult situation in relation to the British Grand Prix. While the Formula One group is busy trying to push up the price of the event and the British Racing Drivers' Club, which owns Silverstone is refusing to pay, the GPWC is lurking in the background ready to do a long-term deal with Silverstone if the event is dropped from the Formula 1 World Championship.

The Formula One group cannot stop an event being called the British Grand Prix because at the moment no-one owns the trademark to the term. The Formula One group did start pushing to try to win control of the term "Grand Prix" as long ago as 2000 but it is considered to be a generic term, used for all manner of competitions, ranging from tennis, to the cinema, to literature and in addition to various kinds of motorized sport to horse racing. The term "Grand Prix" dates back to 1721 when the French Academie des Sciences inaugurated a system of academic prizes which played an important role in the development of mathematics and other scientific disciplines. These were known as the Grands Prix. The first application of the expression in sport was in 1805 when there was a horse race in Paris called the Grand Prix of Paris, which was the national final after a series of regional races. The term Grand Prix was used regularly in horse racing from the middle of the nineteenth century, notably at Pau (which next year celebrates its 118th event) and in Paris where there has been a Grand Prix since 1863.

The first use of the name in relation to automobiles was not until 1901 when the town of Pau borrowed the title of its horse race for a series of motoring challenges. It was then adopted by the Automobile Club de France in 1906 for the first Grand Prix race at Le Mans in 1906.

The Royal Automobile Club Motor Sports Association put in a trademark claim for the term "British Grand Prix" in 2001. This trademark application was opposed, although it is not clear by whom. The opposition case was not received until July this year and followed an application for the trademark by Formula One Licensing BV. There has been no ruling as to who owns the right to the name - if indeed anyone does - and so there is a possibility that there could be two British Grands Prix in the same year if there were ever rival championships.

Hopefully it will not come to this.

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