Brands' new dilemma

Norman Fox says that the dark clouds may lighten over Silverstone

Silverstone, inadequate by modern standards, unpopular with Formula One's governing body, the FIA, and damningly criticised after this year's rain-soaked fiasco, is fighting back to become the long-term saviour of the British Grand Prix. The World Motor Sport Council last week reluctantly reprieved the circuit for next year's event and moved it back to the traditional month of July. After that the FIA believe they will be rid of the old airfield. They could be wrong.

Silverstone, inadequate by modern standards, unpopular with Formula One's governing body, the FIA, and damningly criticised after this year's rain-soaked fiasco, is fighting back to become the long-term saviour of the British Grand Prix. The World Motor Sport Council last week reluctantly reprieved the circuit for next year's event and moved it back to the traditional month of July. After that the FIA believe they will be rid of the old airfield. They could be wrong.

The proposed alternative to Silverstone remains Brands Hatch, which although it has the rights to the British GP from 2002 is not certain to win at a public inquiry which could block plans for a £30m development programme. Nick Raynsford, the Government's planning minister, is known to feel that work at Brands would have a detrimental effect on an area of considerable natural beauty. Nobody could make that accusation against developing Silverstone's bleak acres.

Even if redevelopment did take place, Brands would still face serious impediments, not least the limited size of the whole complex and access problems. While Silverstone is hideously difficult to reach and leave, on the only occasions in recent years crowds of 100,000 or more have gone to Brands (for World Superbike events) traffic has caused serious disruption to the M25 - in spite of the fact that large numbers of spectators were on motorcycles.

Rockingham, the new circuit in Northamptonshire, could be a future contender for the British GP, and the only other possibility is Donington Park, which is below today's F1 standards. Donington's owner, Tom Wheatcroft, has turned down an offer from SFX, an American company, to double their 25-year lease on the grounds that the money was "an insult".

So, even by default, Silverstone's owners, the British Racing Drivers' Club members, feel more confident. They base their long-term hopes on more investment - not to speak of better weather - and the support of the teams based in the vicinity. In the hope of encouraging them to lobby on their behalf, Silverstone has promised that, given an extended British GP contract, it will build an exclusive Formula One centre with permanent garages for each team. Testing within a few miles of production is hugely attractive.

The decision to move this year's British GP from July to April was a belligerent shot across the bows of the BRDC from the sport's most powerful man, the FIA vice-president Bernie Ecclestone, who has said Silverstone should be pulled down. He now knows that the outcome of the Brands Hatch inquiry could well be withheld for so long that it becomes impossible for the Kent circuit to finish work in time for the 2002 GP.

This year's terrible publicity provided an opportunity to kill off Silverstone. However, the non-profit-making BRDC, with their image of older-generation enthusiasts in deerstalkers, are spry opponents. The president, Jackie Stewart, feels that while the club are keen to see improvements at any circuits, he believes that Silverstone is "the focal point of the technology and skills that drive the world of motor sport".

Stewart said: "We have always maintained that the key issue is the commercial viability of the British GP. Silverstone is commercially viable for the GP and always will be." He has serious doubts that even if Brands overcame the inquiry the circuit would make commercial sense. There is a strong feeling among even those fans who love the amphitheatre atmosphere and undulations of Brands that if millions of pounds have to be invested, shareholders will need to be rewarded and the cost of attending a grand prix there will be even higher than it has been at Silverstone.

Life and Style
A nearly completed RoboThespian robot inside the Engineered Arts workshop is tested in Penryn, England. The Cornish company, operating from an industrial unit near Falmouth, is the world's only maker of commercially available life sized humanoid robots
techSuper-intelligent robots could decide destroying the human race is the kindest thing to do
News
The current recommendation from Britain's Chief Medical Officer, is that people refrain from drinking on at least two days a week
food + drinkTheory is that hangovers are caused by methanol poisoning
Life and Style
techConcept would see planes coated in layer of micro-sensors and able to sense wear and tear
News
Patrick Stewart in the classiest ice bucket to date
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
newsComedian Lee Hurst started trend with first tweet using the hashtag
News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
News
newsRyan Crighton goes in search of the capo dei capi
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Extras
indybest

Arts and Entertainment
Actors front row from left, Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres, Bradley Cooper, Peter Nyongío Jr., and, second row, from left, Channing Tatum, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyongío and Angelina Jolie as they pose for a
film
Sport
sport
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition