Silverstone has no chance of regaining the F1 British Grand Prix for 2010 in the event of Donington Park not being ready to stage the race, Bernie Ecclestone warned last week.
In his most direct statement yet on the subject, the F1 commercial rights holder reiterated his 'Donington or nowhere' threat, spelling it out in no uncertain terms that there would be no British Grand Prix on the calendar if the circuit near Derby was unable to deliver on its contract.
He told The Guardian newspaper that the British Racing drivers' Club, should not hold its breath in the event of Donington failing. "We left Silverstone because I am trying to improve facilities throughout the world," he said. "When I get people to build new circuits to the standard which we are trying to meet, how can we go back to Silverstone? I negotiated a deal for them many years ago to give them enough money to build what we wanted. They didn't build it."
Ecclestone also confirmed that there would be a new race in South Korea in 2010 followed by an Indian Grand Prix in 2011. Eventually it is his stated intention to stabilise the calendar at 20 races with European races that drop out unlikely to be reinstated. Quite where that leaves the proposed new French Grand Prix venue, provisionally pencilled in for 2011, remains to be seen.
"We have not got a spare date," said Ecclestone." In fact, we're going to be in trouble if we do have Donington who are doing a good job, it must be said."
Ecclestone also said he thought the F1 business was squaring up to the global recession better than he had anticipated. Yet it is clear that the recent cost-cutting moves within the sport have been seriously beneficial. In a week that BMW reported a 90 per cent drop in profits, their motorsport director Mario Theissen reported that they are now spending 40 per cent of their 2005 expenditure on their F1 campaign.
Meanwhile McLaren are struggling with their new MP4-24 challenger during final pre-season tests. "I don't think we have done a good enough job," said McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh candidly. "There is no point in hiding from that fact. We just have to get our heads down and work hard to fix it. We will rectify the problem as quickly as we can, even though that might not be as quickly as we would like.
"What you have to remember is that the underlying chassis of the new car is based on the one which won the world championship last year. We are a team which is accustomed to winning. We are not where we want to be."
He added: "We believe we do not have the aerodynamic performance that we need. But teasing more speed out of a formula one car very seldom involves a silver bullet. We have to be realistic and pragmatic about this and it will take time to rectify the problem."