JANUARY 11, 2007
Silverstone and the British GP
Britain's Minister for Sport Richard Caborn says that the British government will do everything it can to ensure that Silverstone develops as an international centre of excellence for performance car production and says that keeping the British Grand Prix is a "very important" part of the process. This does not mean that the government is going to come to the aid of the circuit if it is struggles to meet the cost of the fees being demanded by the Formula One group. Direct financial aid would be a dangerous step because there would inevitably be suggestions that the government was simply putting money into the pockets of Bernie Ecclestone and his partners. It is possible that there could be some money to help to fund the upgrading work that is necessary if Silverstone is to keep the event but the government has tended to steer clear of racing because the scandal over political donations back in 1997. Having said that, the man at the centre of that scandal was Tony Blair and he will disappear from the equation later this year when he stands down as Prime Minister. There is, therefore, hope in racing circles that the attitudes can then change as motorsport is a very important industry in Britain, not just in terms of the money that is generated but also in terms of national prestige. The bad news is that a great deal of money is being channeled towards the London Olympic Games in 2012. There may, however, be some way in which money can be found, perhaps via the National Lottery.
Caborn says he does not want to see Britain's racing eroding as others invest more. Caborn argues that the government is already doing a great deal, helping with the planning and trying to convince companies, universities and so on to go to Silverstone.
Silverstone is fortunate in that it is one of the traditional races that are protected in the contract between the FIA and the Formula One group and that there is not really any viable alternative at the moment. The Formula One group did take a look at trying to do a race in London but the city government was not willing to pay the kind of money that was being asked and chose the Tour de France instead. Silverstone knows that if it does not get on with the work that needs to be done the race could be lost but the lack of an alternative is clearly a problem for F1. The Brazilian GP continues to be run at Interlagos despite woeful facilities for similar reasons and until there is a viable alternative it is hard to see that a compromise will not be found.
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