Racing uncertainty

Increasing uncertainty over the future of the British Grand Prix is worrying for the UK-based motorsport industry. It reminds us that F1 is, above all, a business, and business has no time for romantics.


Increasing uncertainty over the future of the British Grand Prix is worrying for the UK-based motorsport industry. It reminds us that while Formula 1 is many things — a sporting event, a spectacle, an ongoing glamorous soap-opera, an arena where the aerospace and automotive sectors meet — it is, above all, a business, and business has no time for the romantic.


The uncertainty is all down to money. DoningtonPark won the rights to the Grand Prix last year, but it needs £135m to upgrade its venerable circuit to F1 standards and has already missed deadlines to confirm it will be ready for next July. Damon Hill, former champion and president of the British Racing Drivers’ Club, is trying to move the event back to its more recent home, Silverstone, which the BRDC runs.


But as Hill says, F1 rights holder Bernie Ecclestone could just decide to make a hard-nosed business decision and accept another country’s offer to host a Grand Prix. Britain doesn’t have any sort of right to hold the event. The uncertainty could well lead to the motorsport sector not having a home fixture, for the first time since 1948.


Many of the companies involved in the sector will, no doubt, profess themselves unworried at this. The industry is still largely UK-based, doesn’t rely solely on F1, and sends its products around the world in any case. But make no mistake, there is cause for concern here. Appearances are important, and if motorsport doesn’t have its big jamboree when the F1 circus comes to town — whatever town it happens to be — then doubts will be sown and the F1 teams could start to think about other locations. That would be a huge blow for UK industry and engineering. Hopefully, Ecclestone will accept the BRDC’s offer and Silverstone will echo to the howl of racing engines in July.



Stuart Nathan
Special Projects Editor