Hill hits out at greedy Ecclestone

Saturday 05-July-2008 08:23

Damon Hill has severely criticised Bernie Ecclestone, accusing him of sucking money out of grand prix organisers without re-investing in F1's infrastructure.

The attack from Hill, president of the British Racing Drivers' club who own Silverstone, comes on the day Ecclestone announced Donington Park would host the British Grand Prix from 2010.

The timing of Ecclestone's announcement could not have been more damaging for the BRDC who this weekend are celebrating their 80th anniversary. It is also Silverstone's 60th birthday.

Formula One supremo Ecclestone, though, could not care as the 77-year-old has run out of patience with the BRDC.

Although plans for a new £30million pit and paddock complex were only recently confirmed, the BRDC's major problem has always been paying Ecclestone his annual fee to host the race.

With regard to a potential new deal, Ecclestone - via his Formula One Management company - was demanding £11million, with a small percentage increase per annum over the length of the contract.

Given their own multi-million pound redevelopment plans, it is a sum that would have stretched the BRDC, and has left Hill feeling bitterly frustrated.

He believes if Ecclestone and CVC Capital Partners, who run Formula One's commercial arm, had re-invested a fraction of the fortune they make from race organisers then Silverstone would have delivered the facilities demanded.

"There's always been the question of the FOM fee, and ultimately that is the deciding factor," said Hill.

"To quote Bernie, he once said: 'You can have anything you like, as long as you pay too much for it,' but we can't pay too much for something.

"We're in it because we want to be there, but we can't go beyond the balance, the tipping point, and Bernie knows that.

"So it's a huge disappointment, a real blow to our efforts and desire to see the grand prix retained.

"The problem is money goes out and away. There's a question whether that money even returns to Formula One.

"No-one should stand in the way of someone's ability to make a profit, and that's not what this is about.

"But the money from the people (the fans) who come here goes to Formula One, and that money doesn't come back to develop the infrastructure of F1.

"This (Silverstone) is part of the infrastructure of Formula One. The FIA have suggested there are protected events.

"But there are also circuits that are part of the fabric of motor sport - the very first grand prix took place at Silverstone.

"But none of that money has been re-invested with regard to the infrastructure of the circuits.

"It goes out, and it seems to me to be absurd that that money is constantly being sucked out and not re-invested.

"We could have had a fantastic venue. It would have been great for everyone. Everyone would have won."

The BRDC's long-held problem, though, is they are a private members club and have failed to attract Government support, in contrast to every other circuit currently on the calendar.

Donington Park is seemingly in a position to fund their £100million redevelopment programme via a private investor, who is also a major shareholder of Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd.

The company, fronted by computer magnate Simon Gillett and partner Lee Gill, runs the East Midlands track, leasing it from owner Tom Wheatcroft.

It remains to be seen whether two years is sufficient for Donington Park to come up to scratch and host their maiden British race which would be the first of a 10-year deal.

Expressing his frustration with the BRDC, Ecclestone said: "They've had a contract on their desk for a few months and we've been waiting for a signature, but they haven't signed.

"They've been under pressure now (to re-develop) for five years and it's not achieved anything.

"The important thing is we still have a British Grand Prix, whereas we would have lost it 100%."

Referring to the deal with DVLL, he added: "They wanted it done quickly because they have to get cracking.

"In all fairness we've mucked them about. They would have signed three months ago if they could have done.

"But we've been waiting for these people (BRDC). I said we can't do anything until we know it's no-go.

"They (DVLL) asked when that would be, and I said if we hadn't got a definite, positive answer by this race we would be in business with them, and that's what has happened.

"So the deadline was yesterday, and that was always the deadline.

"They've been waiting for us, not us for them."

Ecclestone has suggested DVLL will be hit with major penalties if they do not deliver a circuit fit for a grand prix on time.

When asked whether two years was sufficient time, he replied: "Who knows? If they put their mind to it then I am sure they will."

But this may not be the end of the matter as in 1999 Brands Hatch was confirmed as the home of the British Grand Prix from 2002.

Circuit owner at the time, Nicola Foulston, sold out to marketing group Octagon, who in turn signed a deal with Silverstone when it became clear Brands Hatch could not be redeveloped to host a grand prix.

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