There is a scene in the 1970 war film “Kelly’s Heroes” where American and German forces have reached an impasse while fighting over a French town. Both sides are pursuing $16 million in gold bars sitting in a bank in the center of the town. Neither side can win a decisive victory. Finally, Don Rickles exhorts Clint Eastwood to approach the Germans:
“You make a deal ” he says. What kind of deal? “. . . A deal deal.”
Obviously. We cannot fathom how this simple logic eludes both the British Racing Drivers Club and Bernie Ecclestone.
The original deal to move the British GP from Silverstone to Donington was a pipe dream from the start. Simon Gillett had no experience putting on an F1 race, whereas Silverstone has been putting on grand prix races since the Queen was a princess. Silverstone deserves more respect from F1.
As a disinterested observer, we root for a British GP at Silverstone. We think of Moss, Fangio and Hawthorne flying down Hangar Straight. To have an F1 championship that does not visit Britain is unthinkable.
What Bernie Ecclestone fails to grasp is that F1 needs Silverstone. One reason that Arab emirates and Asian nation-states pay top dollar to host an F1 race is that it brings with it echoes of past glory. Motorsport needs its history. Britain shouldn’t be made to bend over like a small country willing to tender its entire food relief budget to F1. Take away Silverstone from F1 and the meaning of “grand prix” is lost. All you have left is motorsport by Disney: a plastic recreation of a by-gone world.
We think the FIA ought to have the responsibility to act as the sport’s guardian, as it already claims ownership of F1′s commercial rights. The FIA decides which drivers receive superlicenses (i.e., who can drive), which tracks receive approval, and (as we now have learned from crash-gate) who can do business in the paddock. The FIA also must be able to tell Bernie Ecclestone that there will be an F1 race in Britain. In fact, any contract with Ecclestone should be made to retain four core races: Spa, Silverstone, Monaco, and Monza.
We have no idea why this is so difficult. Don Rickles knew it, and Clint Eastwood followed him. In the end, the Americans and the Germans split the gold and took off for Switerzland.
Same result here. Make a deal; laugh all the way to Switzerland. You’ll be heroes.