British Grand Prix switches to Donington Park from 2010. Really?

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The FIA has put out a media release claiming the British Grand Prix will switch to from Silverstone to Donington Park in 2010.

This is a surprising announcement for several reasons. Not least because the news has been put out jointly by Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone, whereas usually these matters are solely Formula One Group’s concern (and therefore Ecclestone’s).

But it’s not even clear if Donington Park could be ready to hold a Grand prix within two years.

The circuit has only held one round of the Formula 1 world championship, in 1993. The European Grand Prix held fifteen years ago is fondly remembered by F1 fans by that phenomenal first lap by Ayrton Senna.

However 15 years is a long time in Formula 1 and presumably work will have to be done to bring the circuit up to modern standards.

Spectator access to Donington Park is another problem. The Moto GP round at the circuit often sees queues of several hours – and many spectators arrive on bikes to that event.

Handling a greater volume of cars will put the local roads under massive strain. This is a problem that Silverstone has largely solved, at great cost, in recent years. So why move the race to another location where this problem will have to be sold again? Especially when planning permission for such changes can take so long in Britain.

Bernie Ecclestone said:

I am sorry that we could not have helped Silverstone to raise the money to carry out the circuit improvements and run Formula One. I believe that the government should have supported them which would have cost probably less than .002% of the government’s commitment for the Olympic Games.

I don’t have a problem with the race going to Donington Park (I love the Donington Grand Prix collection), and I’m glad the British Grand Prix is apparently safe. But I’m sad to see it go away from Silverstone. It’s a cracking circuit and it’s the place where modern Formula 1 began in 1950.

For now, the 2009 British Grand Prix looks at being the last in Silverstone. But will the British fans really be at Donington Park in 2010?

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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27 comments on “British Grand Prix switches to Donington Park from 2010. Really?”

  1. …Or will this be like Magny-Cours? As much as Bernie wants to kill it, it just won’t die? We shall see…

  2. Just a bunch of bs I think. While I’d love to see a GP at Donington Park, it wouldn’t be at the cost of losing Silverstone from the calendar. It’s just Ecclestone upto his usual antics.

  3. I have exactly the same questions on the tip of my tongue as you do Keith – as does Joe Saward over at It’s a massive slap in the face that they should announce it this weekend, in the middle of Silverstone actually hosting the GP. I think it is significant that Max made the announcement – a sign perhaps that the hatchet between him and Bernie is being buried (there were also some conciliatory statements in The Times the other day from Bernie). This happened in ’99, when Brands announced that they would host the GP from 2002 – they then got bought out by Octagon and it all went wrong. I also wonder why, when Donington is able to (apparently) raise private finance that Silverstone isn’t. The one-off race in ’93 there is rightly remembered as a classic – but that is really due to one man’s utter genius and April British weather than anything else. Other than the Craner Curves, Donington can’t shake a stick at Silverstone as a racing circuit for racing cars. Silverstone – like Monza (I imagine) – oozes history – you can’t help but see the ghosts of the past when you stare at the entry to Stowe or Copse. It’s a massive challenge for the drivers and for the engineers. Like you, I’m pleased we have the guarantee now of a Grand Prix in Britain, but I’m also hugely saddened that it won’t be at Silverstone.

  4. SuperKarateMonkeyDeathCar
    4th July 2008, 17:15

    This is interesting, from “The Donington owners say that this will require an investment of nearly $200m but say that this will be led by “a private investor who is also a large shareholder”.” Is this private investor/shareholder Bernie? Will this mean he gets total control of the Britsh Grand Prix? I think that’s what he always wanted but the BRDC wouldn’t allow that.

  5. I agree that I would be strange to not have a race in the UK, and I agree that there is a lot of history in the Silverstone track. But other than that, I wouldn’t mind if it moved away from Silverstone. I don’t think it’s a great track (except from Becketts). It’s almost flat, and without rain I think the races are boring.

    Donington Park is a great circuit, but as mentioned the facilities are not up to the task. The area behind the pit is really small, and even Moto GP has problem with that. I don’t see how they could make them that much bigger and better without actually removing the Melbourne Hairpin.

  6. Quite interesting…As I don’t know much about any other British tracks besides Silverstone, I can’t comment on the good/bad sides of such a move. I think Silverstone is a great place for a GP, and in my short time following the sport Silverstone has always been linked with F1 in Britain in my view.

    What’s curious is that after the BRDC unveiled those plans for a new pits/paddock complex, I thought the British GP was safe there for the forseeable future. I guess only time will tell if this develops into another Magny-Cours deal, or if the situation really dose develop.

  7. Scott Joslin
    4th July 2008, 18:21

    Sometimes, just sometimes I just do not understand anything in F1 and today as I was eating my packet lunch on the start and finish straight at Silverstone and this news came through I was utterly gobsmacked. I never believed for a minute that this would really be pulled off.

    I really doubt Donington will be ready in time, even if they start digging it up now, it won’t be ready for 2010!

    I am seriously disappointed to be leaving Silverstone, it is the natural home of British motorsport and has the best facilities of any circuit in the UK.

    I don’t know where to start on the list of things that need doing at Donington to get it even up to Silverstones current standards. I agree the roads are a nightmare.

    If Bernie had announced it was going to Mallory Park I think I would have believed him more.

    Although, I don’t want to sound too ungrateful, at least Britain will have a GP beyond 2009!

  8. Sadly access routes to both circuits are very poor even with the upgrades and thats why many in general are put off from going (yes i know its sold out this year). Bernie seems to have it in for Silverstone.

    Frankly I’m appalled and disgusted the British government has not helped out Silverstone financially. Most F1 teams are based or have some kind of substantial roots or offices in UK. The UK F1 expertise are second to non. The industry brings in masses of money to the country and the tax man. Why is the UK government so intent on squeezing destroying and not supporting yet another great British industry!?

  9. steve thompson
    4th July 2008, 18:53

    Both are apparently great tracks to drive – they look pretty dull on TV so I don’t really care. No its just Ecclestone’s ancient old fashioned bully model of negotiation…. he has no intention of attempting to cram a 21st century Grand Prix into Donnington, he just wants a bigger cut of the fans hard earned cash on the gate. Where next Crystal Palace, Aintree…. Brightone Seafront?

  10. It’s just Bernie’s poncing about trying to get people to jump up and down and pressure the other side into doing something by winding up the fans.

    Pathetic really but could you expect anything else from him?

  11. Bernie is also complaining that the Government should pitch in money, but he’s the very reason they won’t touch F1 with a 10 ft pole. Remember the “contribution” to the Labour party that was returned?

  12. My work colleague Dave is a keen biker and goes to Donnington a lot with the various races,

    He says that because of the nearby airport (not sure which one) the track is very slippery because when the planes come into land they dumped a lot of fuel which goes onto the track.

    Has anyone heard this as well?
    it could be interesting…..

  13. Matthew – thanks for that link about the Renault World Series race at Donigton last year. Interestingly Silverstone took that race off Donington this year.

  14. Speaking from a aviation background they technically aren’t allowed to dump fuel below a certain height which would mean that if a fuel dumping occurred it shouldn’t make that much difference to the atmosphere. However on a track it probably makes a big difference but it is rare to do it over land and certainly is not allowed not to dump fuel unless in a *REAL EMERGENCY* below that height threshold, above it they say it’s ok but normally this is why the aircrafts are held in a holding pattern so that they can burn their fuel off to land at a minimum possible weight. (‘tho not true for all aircrafts).

    And the airport is East Midlands Airport.

  15. Robert McKay
    5th July 2008, 0:16

    This is all I can really muster on this issue: DOES NOT MAKE SENSE.

  16. The other day i’ve read a new about Tilke visiting Donington. Today i read this post at this site…

    Just a coincidence?

  17. michael counsell
    5th July 2008, 1:14

    For a long time now Britain has had three tracks holding international events Silverstone, Brands Hatch and Donington Park. World Superbikes, World Touring Cars, Le Mans Series, DTM, MotoGP, FIA GT etc are all up for grabs and can change hands between them so F1 should be no exception.

    I assume Donington gave a higher bid or better promises for facilities which is fair enough I guess. Different rates are set for different tracks based on their importance to Formula 1 (The Bahrain GP costs a lot more than teh British GP), but I am worried that if the rates become to high to allow the tracks to be run at a profit, quality in the long term could be compromised.

  18. Having just been to Donington for the British MotoGP round, it’s hard to conceive how different the facilities and the track will need to be in just two years time.

    The rumours of planes dumping fuel are nonsense, but there are other issues with the track of more consequence. The track is just 10m wide with very limited run off space. This is an aspect of the track that the bike racing fans love – spectators are able to get unbelievably close to the action. For example, at the Esses, the crowd are crammed onto a grassy bank, separated from the track by a wall and fence and just 3 metres of grass. When F1 arrives, I have no doubt that this will be very different. The organisers this year also made extensive use of temporary fencing with limited success – a last lap track invasion was both dangerous and stupid, but a consequence of bars opening at 10:00, flimsy fences and a couple of hundred idiots.

    Aside from this, the paddock buildings are a joke, 60’s prefab concrete and tiny in size, and simply not suitable for MotoGP, let alone F1. Spectator facilities are dire, with limited seating and camping on grassy banks the norm. The last time I was at an F1 race with the same approach was at Silverstone, but in 1987.

    £100M seems like an optimistic figure for the amount of work required. Hopefully the work will not affect the character of the track itself, but I think this is probably not realistic. However, the removal of the Melbourne Loop would not be mourned over by many.

    I still can’t quite conceive of the switch happening, but it does look like it will.

  19. I personally don’t mind the venue change. The only thing I’m afraid of is that I’ve heard Hermann Tilke will be doing some redesigning on the track layout. Gary Anderson (former Jordan designer and commentator for Irish TV) said he’s seen the new layout and it looks ambitious. I hope Hermann doesn’t ruin what is a classic track.

  20. Too many things just don’t make sense in this deal. There must be one helluva backstory.

  21. What are the chances of Bernie announcing Silverstone to be kept on under some other title? Spain have two races because of Alonso, what not the same for England and Hamilton? Also look at how many times Mangy-Cours has been let off the hook.

  22. Donington has been a super tintop and bike circuit for God knows how many years. Now F1 comes along and they’re going to rip bits of it up.

    Whatever comes of this, I hope they don’t trash the character of the circuit too much; Wide, 3rd gear turns might be cool for F1 but it’s a snooze for everyone else.

  23. I am not surprised that this situation has arisen. Silverstone provides dreadful facilities and is very overpriced. The stupid tunnel, the horrendous queues for the broken down toilets, the amazing way that traffic heading for southbound M1 is funnelled down a single track road, plus the complete lack of viewing points for anyone holding a general admission ticket.

    Whilst I agree that Donnington needs a lot of work on it, I think it will be a shame if they cover the whole place in stands and restrict open viewing. The open spaces add to the feel of the circuit. Car park access / exits need to be improved but once out it isn’t difficult to get home.

    I always feel valued as a visitor to Donnington, not like the walking wallet you are treated as at Silverstone.

  24. life long F1 fan
    9th July 2008, 15:34

    In response to Lyn, the reason donnington park has up to now being cheaper is because it has no over heads ! wait intill theres a £100.000.000 debt plus Berines £50,000,000 bill every year to bring his circus to town ! the prices will have to rise for all events to cover this. Sliverstone do not make any money from hosting the BGP the ticket money only covers the host cost’s and thats it in fact the BGP has made alost some years. go to any other event at sliverstone like the Le mans which moved from donnington and the prices are as reasonable £30.00 for a weekend ticket! I have’nt seen the business plan for this but fully except the fans will be paying.

    I dont beleive Bernie has thought this though, due to the size of donnington there is no way he is going to fit in 132,000 fans if he does they will be mostly gen admin and not grandstand or VIP (which pay for sliverstone) so get ready for Gen admin tickets to raise to near £150-200 at least !!!!! bad bad news for F1 fans and as a ex BSB rider I will be joining protest groups to prevent the track from being changed ! Well done Bernie you upset bike & car race fans with this one you muppet ! Bernie and Max’s need to go and quick ! they had there day in the 80’s & 90’s when they did sort F1 out and we thank them for that but they have now lost touch wth real everyday motorsport fans the world over. raise up people make your voices heard and protest ! do not buy tickets for 2010 BGP write letters of protest to the FIA FOM and most of all SUPPORT BRITISH MOTORSPORT !!!!!!!!!

    To Bernie,

    you said on sunday that you signed with donnington becasue they need a contract to be able to submitt planing applications and to fund the money !! Sliver had both ! they just need a contract and money would be there the planning was already there and you would not sign ! I want to why ??? you wanted something that Sliverstone could or wouldnt give you what was that? do you really need more money?

  25. Response to a couple of posts:
    The discussion about aviation fuel being dumped is incorrect but there is a concern about fuel “vapour” being deposited on the track.

    The last post about being able to fit in 132,000 fans in…MotoGp attracted 139,000!

    before you argue with me…I work at donington!!

  26. Gaz – very useful, thanks!

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