Fine China, but will the family Silverstone be sold?
The first Chinese Grand Prix proved hugely successful, and the weekend in Shanghai ran like clockwork. The only drawback was the suicidal driving style practiced by the locals. Having experienced the traffic some F1 drivers joked that it won’t be long before the country produces an F1 star, but it wasn’t so funny when you were in the back of a VW taxi as it swayed from lane to lane.
The circuit itself was awesome, as you’d expect for a venue built with public money and no budget cap. Estimates of the costs were as high as £220m.
I asked Sir Jackie Stewart whether Bernie Ecclestone would use China as a stick with which to beat Silverstone… and it happened quicker than we expected. Just a few days later the British GP — or rather the lack of it — made headlines. The BRDC had not reached an agreement with Mr E, and the race was off the ‘provisional’ 2005 calendar.
Bernie emphasised that Silverstone has slipped behind the times. There is some truth in that, but he didn’t have to say that he still liked going there as it reminded him of racing in the 1950s.
Stewart pointed out other grands prix benefit from government funding, but sadly, in the press, F1 just comes across as greedy.
The fuss undid a lot of the positive PR generated by July’s demonstration in Regent Street. One never quite knows what Bernie’s true agenda is, but a London GP could be what he’s aiming for — which would need local and central government support.
By the time you read this Silverstone might have returned to the calendar. But even if it does, I know who will have gained the upper hand as a result of the saga. Don’t expect it to be the BRDC.