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MAY 10, 2007

Bernie fires the first salvo in the next Silverstone battle

Bernie Ecclestone has opened fire on Silverstone, slightly earlier in the year than usual, by telling Autosport magazine that he is not interested in dealing with the British Racing Drivers' Club because "you get no guarantees with them". Ecclestone is known to be peeved that when the last deal was done the BRDC undertook to have the circuit upgraded before the end of the contract and has failed to do that.

"I want to deal with a promoter rather than the BRDC," said Ecclestone. "We've said that unless they can get the circuit to the level expected from so-called Third World countries we are not prepared to do a deal. They know what we want them to build."

The BRDC has a plan for the redevelopment of the track but is still to find the funding for the work. Ecclestone says that it needs to be sorted out by the end of the year and has hinted that the government should help, as it is spending fortunes on the London Olympics.

The BRDC says it will do everything possible to keep the race alive.

Ecclestone has a slight problem in that the British GP is considered very important by the F1 teams and there will be pressure from them to make sure that a race goes ahead. There is also a contractual clause in his deal with the FIA which insists that the historical races must be retained. These include the British GP. However there is already doubt as to whether another protected event - the French GP - will happen in 2008 because the French motorsport federation says that it cannot afford to run a race without more help. There is talk of moving the race nearer Paris in 2009. The good news for the French is that there is a new government which may have bigger and better ideas than the previous one.

Britain may get a new government by the end of the year. Tony Blair is expected to announce his resignation later today and he will be replaced by the Chancellor of the Exchequor Gordon Brown. There is then likely to be a big shake-up in the Cabinet with a new generation of Labour leaders getting some of the major positions but whether that results in any change of policy towards Silverstone remains to be seen. There does not have to another General Election before June 3, 2010, but the Labour Party may decide for an earlier election if opinion polls offer them a chance of victory again the reviving Conservative Party under David Cameron. As the Conservatives are currently very strong in the opinion polls it may mean that Silverstone will get two chances of government help in the years ahead.