The proposed move to Donington

I’ll come straight out with it here: I don’t care where the British Grand Prix is held. I can well understand if people have a particular attachment to Silverstone. But I just don’t have it.

The thing is that, even though I am in Britain, I live a long way away from Silverstone. I don’t exactly live in the sticks, but the central belt of Scotland where I reside is hundreds of miles away from Silverstone. The British Grand Prix is not my grand prix. I’ve never been in a position to attend it. And I doubt I would be in the future. It simply involves too much upheaval.

Of course I would one day love to attend a Grand Prix and would pull out all the stops when I decide to do so. But would Silverstone be my first choice? Probably not. Travelling all the way to Silverstone would only be marginally more convenient than travelling to, say, Magny-Cours, Catalunya or Hockenheim.

Once I decide to spend such a significant amount of time travelling somewhere, I really may as well make a holiday of it or something rather than going along just to spend a blustery weekend in a crumbling, roofless Silverstone grandstand. It is notable that the one grand prix I have actually seriously considered attending is the Hungarian Grand Prix. I’ve never looked into travelling to Silverstone.

So my “home” grand prix means very little to me. When home is hundreds of miles away it ceases to have any meaning. My affinity with Silverstone is zilch. Of course I appreciate it as a circuit, just as I appreciate any other circuit. But I wouldn’t shed any more tears for the British Grand Prix’s loss than I would for the removal of, for instance, the Belgian Grand Prix.

As such, I can only shrug my shoulders for the prospect that the British Grand Prix is under serious threat. So I am not particularly bothered about the proposed move to Donington. I suspect most people are apprehensive about it because they suspect that Donington will never be ready in time for 2010 and therefore the announced move is little more than a proxy for the removal of the British GP.

Clearly Donington needs a lot of work to be brought up to the standards expected of a modern F1 circuit. But it is a nice circuit with plenty of history. People talk about Silverstone’s history as though it’s the only place that has history. But Donington has it as well.

People talk about Donington as though it is a pigsty. But in recent years it has been the venue for the British MotoGP. MotoGP is not Formula 1, of course, but it’s not that much smaller. Of course Donington needs work, but as I pointed out in my previous post so does Silverstone (certainly in the eyes of Bernie Ecclestone).

Access is also said to be a problem. But it handles MotoGP okay (though I’ve heard the traffic was pretty bad this year). It also plays host to the rather large Download music festival. And it’s not as though Silverstone has been free of traffic problems over the years.

There are many who also point out that Silverstone is by no means the F1 circuit with the worst facilities, with Interlagos frequently being cited as a terrible venue. However, this ignores the reality that Formula 1 simply needs a venue in South America even if that venue has to be a total dump. If F1 is to have any pretence of being a World Championship, it can’t afford to ignore this part of the world, especially as it has brought us so many great drivers over the decades. Europe, meanwhile, has grands prix falling out of its pockets. F1 can probably afford to lose the British Grand Prix. It certainly can’t afford to lose the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Where the Donington story gets fishy is the idea that the upgrades will be finished within two years. And that £100 million will somehow be raised by a fan-powered debenture scheme. Then again, you could just as easily ask where Silverstone would get the money it needs to make its improvements.

I think the harsh reality is that Britain now has no venue that is capable of holding an F1 grand prix. That certainly seems to be the view of Bernie Ecclestone. If the best hope of retaining the British Grand Prix is to throw our weight behind Donington, it might be the only way to go. Whether fans will feel this way to the extent of £100 million collectively remains to be seen.

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