Why F1 might have missed a trick with the location of its 1000th race

Bernie Ecclestone may be 88 but he has lost none of his waspish sense of humour. That's assuming, of course, that he was having a laugh recently when he suggested that the British Grand Prix should have been moved to this weekend's date in order to align with the 1000th race since the start of the Formula 1 World Championship.

You can't argue with his historic exactitude, as the championship began at Silverstone on May 13, 1950, and it would have made perfect sense to have the classic British track stage such a landmark event. Indeed, Liberty Media did offer the slot to the British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC) but the owners of Silverstone politely declined -- as well they might.

It may have been 19 years ago, but painful memories remain of the last time the British Grand Prix was switched from its traditional July date to April. To say the weekend was a washout would be like saying Ecclestone is moderately wealthy.

Three weeks of more or less incessant rain turned the Northamptonshire fields into a potential quagmire waiting for the arrival of fans on the Friday. When cars had to be towed into the car parks on the first day, the BRDC had no alternative but to advise spectators not to come for qualifying in order to give the fields a chance to make some sort of recovery for race day. The subsequent loss was not confined to the financial implications, Silverstone taking a predictable and mighty hammering from angry fans stuck up to their back axles in mud.

Ecclestone says he would have been prepared to help cover any shortfall should similar conditions have prevailed this weekend. That's rich (no pun intended) since Bernie had shown no inclination in 2000 to help out - largely because he had caused the embarrassment in the first place.

Ecclestone continues to deny that the date switch had been forced upon Silverstone as a means of keeping the BRDC in line after they had dared to rail against the escalating fee. Silverstone and Brands Hatch were competing for the Grand Prix rights. Even though the Kent track had not staged a championship round since 1986 and seemed unlikely to meet the latest standards, the official excuse of a crowded calendar in July 2000 (Austria had conveniently been moved to the date expected for the British round) was seen as no more than a means of showing the BRDC who was in charge. And it wasn't the FIA, the governing body merely rubber-stamping the calendar drawn up Ecclestone -who happened to be a good mate of FIA president Max Mosley.

As it turns out, the weather seems set fair for the UK this weekend but Ecclestone ought to be the first to know that's frequently not the case on the wind-swept expanses of Silverstone at this time of year. He's clearly forgotten 1973 and the International Trophy on 8 April. Bernie's Brabham team may not have been entered but it's a fair bet he was there to see Ronnie Peterson's Lotus spinning off when a flurry of snow hit Becketts half way through this non-championship race. To be fair, it was so cold Bernie had probably pushed off by the time mechanics started a snowball fight in the paddock.

If he wants to maintain a sense of the past, Ecclestone would have been better off pointing out that 11 of the 1000 races were not actually Grands Prix thanks to the Indianapolis 500 counting for the world championship between 1950 and 1960.

Doing his sums - not usually a problem for Mr E - he could have subtracted 11 and worked out that the 1000th 'Grand Prix' is actually the Italian. You have to say that Monza in September would be a thousand times more appropriate that Shanghai at any time of the year.