Silverstone has expressed its concern about the fate of next year's British Grand Prix, the circuit's management claiming that it cannot see Donington Park – set to replace it as a GP venue next year – getting its finances in shape to host the race.
On the eve of what could be the last Formula 1 race at Silverstone, Robert Brooks, the chairman of the British Racing Drivers' Club, openly cast doubt about the fate of next year's race.
"Our concern is for the 2010 Grand Prix," said Brooks. "We all know that grands prix don't take sabbaticals terribly well, and 2010 is a big concern to us. We don't think from where we sit that a summer grand prix in 2010 is a possibility at Donington.
"I have always found in business – and I am looking at this not so much with my club hat on but as a business thinker – that it doesn't do anyone any good to knock the opposition, and in contract terms Donington is the opposition.
"I've looked at what we have been told about its business plans, and we have looked at the numbers that have been revealed to the public about the debenture schemes, and I have, we have as a team, we have run those numbers," he added. "We had a debenture scheme as part of our thinking for building a grandstand as part of our overall masterplan here, and it would work well for building a grandstand or something of that nature, but the idea that you could fund a £100 million ($165m) development off a debenture scheme just doesn't stack up.
"I'm not here to knock Donington. Donington is a great club racing circuit. I was looking through my old programs and I raced in my old Formula Ford in the first meeting when they reopened the track in the 1970s, and I remember after that race thinking, 'Wow that is a great circuit.' And it is a very exciting club circuit, as is Oulton Park, as is Brands Hatch Grand Prix, as are a number of British circuits. But the difference between a good club circuit and an international standard grand prix circuit is massive, it is huge. And the amount of work that needs to go in is considerable."
Brooks said that Silverstone was not actively pushing to host the race next year if Donington Park cannot hold it, but said it was ready to step in.
"FOM are very, very good businessmen. They know our numbers, they know where we are and they know what the situation is," he said. "I hope we can continue to discuss the possibility of a 2010 race.
"We are ready to do that and I think if we focus on next year rather than on the long-term situation, because long-term there is a contract out there, then potentially we could make some progress. But I don't have that from Bernie...you need both sides of the story to get the picture."
Silverstone is pushing ahead with redevelopment plans for the circuit, which includes track revisions for a MotoGP race and a new pit and paddock complex between the Club and Abbey corners that will be ready towards the end of next year.
Brooks said: "Silverstone is ready for the 2009 grand prix, so that means it is ready for 2010. You can compare it to many circuits around the world. I hope that you would agree that we are certainly not up with the Arab circuits and what have you, but this is a pretty good circuit, a pretty good setup and we are in pretty good shape.
"Silverstone is ready for a grand prix now and it will be ready for a grand prix in 2010. Absolutely, that is a very, very clear message. Will we have a brand-new pit building ready for 2010? Well that is a 60-week project. We will squeeze them on it and push them on it."
He added: "I guess our concern about the 2010 grand prix extends to the fact that every day from Monday onwards the British GP is getting damaged because on Monday we would normally go on sale.
"On Monday we would be printing tickets and we would be talking to hospitality groups and ticket agents. Silverstone has a fabulous database that we market this grand prix to each year. People don't just turn up; we have to sell this race to fill it. Look what happens when you don't sell it – we all saw what happened in Turkey.
"So every day that we don't have a grand prix after this weekend, it damages the next year – it damages it in terms of income. The finances are so tight on this thing that if you do that, you trip over the viability of the business plan short term or long term. You cannot run a business on hope, expectation and a dream."