30 April 2019
The British GP
One of the most difficult moments in the life of a news journalist comes when one has several trusted sources contradicting one another. The very fact that they are trusted means that they have earned such status over time and so one must dig down to understand how things have gone wrong, if indeed that is the case, rather than saying "This source can no longer be trusted". This often reveals that one of the sources was wrong but did not know they were wrong and did not lead one astray on purpose. And, more often than not, the story becomes true with a little time because when someone says "The deal is done", the broad brush has been applied and the detailed work is still to be done. Or people in a hierarchy do not know about deals that others had done. It is a complicated world and a bit of a high wire for the journalist involved, but getting news is about more than just retyping a press release...
When I landed at Roissy, on my way home this morning from Baku, Silverstone rang to say that the British GP deal is not done, contrary to a story I had written, based on normally impeccable sources, with whom the story had been cross-checked. I was rather surprised to hear this because the sources in this case are never wrong - and I could see no reason why either they or Silverstone would be trying to lead me astray. In fact, I went back to one of the sources twice: firstly to make sure that I had not got it wrong and secondly to ask whether the story would cause trouble for anyone involved. The answer was that no, it was OK to run it. And so I have concluded that this is either one of those situations where the deal is very close to being done but the i's need to be dotted and the t's need to be crossed and that it will be confirmed in the fullness of time, or that a deal was done and one of the parties now wants slightly different terms. Silverstone says that negotiations are ongoing and it is not a question of details. Clearly there is more to this than meets the eye and I am now wondering whether a deal was done, but without the paperwork being finished, and that circumstances have changed. This could be possible because it is clear that in recent weeks the Formula 1 group has been working heavily on a London race which would not replace the British GP, but rather run alongside it. This would not be what Silverstone might want because one can imagine the Northamptonshire track thinking that a second British GP would affect their ticket sales.
Having two races in the UK has happened before on several occasions and did not have any dramatic effect on either venue. Silverstone sells out each year and I am sure that a street race in London would sell out as well.
The fact that Silverstone initially dubbed the story as being "fake news" was a silly thing to do because it was clear that this is a very real story which has been properly researched and verified. It is also worth noting that the circuit later changed its denial to remove the words "fake news".
In any case, a British Grand Prix deal is close and I believe that we will find out soon that the story was not wrong. Even better news is that British fans may get the chance to have two races in Britain: one at the traditional British GP venue at Silverstone, and the other in London, a global destination city that will help F1 to increase the number of global F1 fans.
Time will tell.
For added context, here is the original story: British GP saved as Silverstone agrees new deal