Bernie Ecclestone is not a man to pull his punches and the Formula One chief was as outspoken as usual on his reasons for dropping the British Grand Prix from the 2005 calendar. Ecclestone has long campaigned for the Silverstone circuit to be ...
Bernie Ecclestone is not a man to pull his punches and the Formula One chief was as outspoken as usual on his reasons for dropping the British Grand Prix from the 2005 calendar. Ecclestone has long campaigned for the Silverstone circuit to be upgraded and compared to new, top-class facilities such as Bahrain and Shanghai, he said the UK track is woefully lacking.
"When people want to build new tracks, they want to look at Silverstone. We don't want it built like that. It's quite embarrassing," he said in an interview with ITV news. "I am pushing the world to raise the standards and our country has one of the worst."
According to newspaper reports, he said that Silverstone could not compete with the new circuits, including Turkey, which will join the F1 calendar next year. "We took a lot of time over Shanghai, getting the deal right and the people there went and built this magnificent circuit. Turkey next year will be great as well."
"You can't go around the world asking people to build these terrific facilities and then we have this thing back in England called Silverstone that we are ashamed of," the Daily Express quoted Ecclestone as saying.
Ecclestone was not willing to negotiate with the British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC), which had put in a bid to host the Grand Prix. "They came to me with a letter which more or less said 'take it or leave it'. The obvious thing they should know is that when they say that to me, that is an opportunity to leave it," he said of the offer, which was below his demands.
The BRDC issued a statement in which it said that Ecclestone's actions were damaging to British motorsport. "It is sad when new countries like Bahrain and China are celebrating their new Grand Prix and their importance to their country's interests that here in the UK, where we hosted the first Grand Prix at Silverstone in 1950, we have been taken off the international calendar. It will inflict serious damage to the pre-eminence of the sport and industry in the United Kingdom which may be irrecoverable."
British former World Champions Nigel Mansell and Damon Hill are, unsurprisingly, very unhappy about the decision. "It's an utter disgrace," said Mansell, according to The Sun. "This is the home of British motor sport -- more than that it's the home of the world championship. This is a dreadful loss, not just for Britain but for Formula One in general."
Hill believes that business, rather than racing, is more important to F1 in this day and age. "Unfortunately business simply takes priority," he said in the Telegraph. "Bernie Ecclestone holds all the cards. He decides where races should go and looks only at the commercial side. I think that is a big mistake."
"It is a very sad day for me. No one should be under any illusions about the way the sport is going. The show goes where the money is. That ought to worry every true motor racing fan, not only those in Britain."
There may be a faint hope of reprieve for the British GP. Next year's calendar is expected to be 17 races but Ecclestone said he would not rule out Silverstone being the 18th, if a promoters' contract was in place and the teams agreed to it.
"If I were to receive a signed contract from Silverstone I would then have to go to all the teams and ask if they were prepared to participate in 18 races," he commented.