Silverstone has issued a fresh warning about the future of the British Grand Prix, claiming there are now just a few "critical" weeks left to secure the event on next year's Formula 1 calendar.
Amid continuing uncertainty about the state of funding and redevelopment plans at Donington Park, Silverstone has made no secret of the fact that it is ready to step into the breach to hold the 2010 race if needed. However, Silverstone thinks it can only hold on for just a few more weeks before it becomes too late for its plans to be put into action – which then risks the British GP falling off the calendar entirely if Donington's ambitions fall short.
Renewed fears about Donington Park's plans have surfaced after it said its funding would be in place by the end of July, but so far no details have been made public.
In an interview with AUTOSPORT, Silverstone's managing director Richard Phillips says the point of no return for Silverstone is approaching fast – and that attempts to negotiate a back-up plan with Donington Park have so far fallen on deaf ears.
"How much longer can we go on?" said Phillips about waiting for news from Donington Park. "It is always manana... it is always tomorrow they are going to get the money, or tomorrow they are going to start work. But it doesn't happen. So, from our perspective, we are now running towards September, where our last major promoted events happen, and in October we will be starting to take down grandstands and things because we are doing work.
"Then the question is, do we re-erect them, or do we put them on trucks and send them back to where they came from? It really is the next six weeks that are critical in terms of how we move forward. But we are ready to go on sale with it. We have a strategy for it, but every day that goes past there is damage done."
He added: "I personally think that if we don't know in around six weeks then it is starting to become rather difficult, certainly in the short term There would then have to be some allowance made to be able to run the grand prix in 2010 – probably with a smaller crowd, which would not be good and is unnecessary, isn't it? Having built it up, why do you want it to suddenly crash and burn? You wouldn't want it to happen."
With Phillips doubtful that Donington Park has the time left to be able to redevelop its track and put in place the organization for next year's race, he has said he hopes that Bernie Ecclestone will not let the uncertainty drag on too much longer.
"I am presuming that, like in most contracts, there is some fall-over time that you cannot go past," he said. "Hopefully that is coming up fairly soon, but not being party to the contract I don't know for definite. At that time, if they haven't got it, then I am hoping that Bernie Ecclestone will say enough is enough – if we are going to give a chance for the event to be a success for 2010 then Silverstone has to do it.
"There is not much we can do about it, other than keep saying that we are ready to go, willing to go and capable. But at the end of the day, I think there must be a contractual issue there to be resolved. At that stage, Donington Park will not have to stick its hands up, they will already be up."
Phillips revealed Silverstone has contacted Donington Park about next year's race, but so far talks about a back-up plan have been limited.
"There was a suggestion at the grand prix that we should have a conversation with Donington Park and we have tried to get into dialogue with them to see what can be resolved," he said. "But nothing has really come of those conversations, to be honest, because they are still quite bullish in their attitude in terms of raising the money and organizing an event for next year.
"To be honest, what I thought would probably happen was that they would put their hands up and say they cannot organize it in 2010, but try to work with Bernie to get an extension. Then I thought there might be a conversation about what will happen for one year. But even that seems to have gone quiet – so what is all this insistence about having to do it in 2010?"
Donington Park recently appointed Jayne McGivern's Red Grouse Properties group to help oversee the rebuilding of the track and has promised news soon about its plans.
A circuit spokesperson told AUTOSPORT this week: "Work behind the scenes is still ongoing, but unfortunately there's nothing that we can talk about publicly just yet."