For the British Racing Drivers’ Club, the high moment of yesterday came a couple of hours after their president Damon Hill announced that the British Grand Prix had been saved at Silverstone, nominally for a period of 17 years.
Buoyed by the news, the BRDC brethren then gathered for their annual awards lunch at which a surprise guest, prime minister Gordon Brown, arrived to present the prestigious Richard Seaman Trophy to world champion Jenson Button. “This puts Britain at the centre of world racing for 17 years to come,” said the Prime Minister.
Nevertheless, precise details of the contract remain sketchy. As is the way with race promoters’ contracts signed with Bernie Ecclestone, the billionaire Formula One commercial rights holder, the intricacies of vulgar matters such as money are strictly proscribed no-go areas, leaving the motor racing fraternity clutching at straws as they struggle to paint an accurate picture.
One might also add that the last person who should have been thanked for his support for the British GP was the PM. One of the biggest problems the BRDC has encountered in trying to guarantee the future of the British GP has been the obvious unwillingness of the politicians to offer any direct financial support to this crucial sporting event.
Of course, you might think this was a thoroughly reasonable attitude to take. Wall-to-wall with private jets, F1 is a business which can easily afford to wash its own financial face.
Yet at the end of the day, in an era when government-backed tracks like Bahrain and Abu Dhabi are increasingly the norm, and half the sport’s estimated $1bn annual commercial rights income is hovered up by Mr Ecclestone and CVC Capital Partners, Silverstone remains a minnow trying to compete at the top level.
It says much for the management of the BRDC and their subsidiary Silverstone Holdings that they did not buckle under the strain of clinching the deal of a lifetime.