Worrying news broke last year that the British GP at Silverstone may be no more, in the alarmingly near future.
The British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) expressed concerns over the fees for hosting the British GP, revealing that they are currently struggling to break even. With ticket prices already prompting serious complaints from fans and a line-up that is already bursting at the seams, there was no immediately apparent way to recoup the fee.
What makes this all the more difficult is that part of the agreement sees a 5% increase on fees, year on year. The original cost, when the contract was written up was said to be £12 million and with the 5% increase per year and the contract in place until 2027, if they are struggling to break even now, it doesn’t look set to get any easier.
The reason this was brought up so far in advance of the end of the contract, is that there was a break clause written into the deal. The suggestion was, therefore, that the BRDC would trigger the break this year making 2019 the final time Silverstone would host the British GP.
This all came to light under the reign of Mr E. Unsurprisingly, his stance was very much ‘that’s the cost, take it or leave it’ and if you ever needed evidence of whether he meant that, have a look for the 2015 German GP.
You won’t find it – there wasn’t one. That was due to the fact the Nurburgring couldn’t afford the race and the Hockenheimring can only afford to host it biannually, that particular year being their year off. Bernie wasn’t for budging so, despite there being a healthy stock of German drivers, one with a very real chance of winning the championship, there would be no homecoming for any of them.
With this precedent, under Bernie’s rule, it wasn’t looking good for Silverstone.
Then there was a changing of the guard. Liberty Media came in and made all sorts of exceptionally reasonable noises about accessibility and cutting red tape and how they want to maintain the sport’s heritage. All very agreeable. Talk of the break clause subsided around this time too. Could it be that Liberty Media would be more sympathetic to the plight of the BRDC and the spiralling costs that were seemingly not to be met?
In short – no. No they wouldn’t. There is to be no renegotiation of the original contract and the 5% annual increase will remain in place. Maybe that is fair, a contract being a contact and all that. Any change to the deal would leave Liberty in a very difficult situation with other venues who would no doubt want to renegotiate their contracts too. This does, however, leave the BRDC is a pretty inevitable position.
In an interview with the Mail on Sunday, Philip Walker, a director of the BRDC said “it is highly probable we will have to activate the break clause’.
Another representative told the same publication “It has come too early for Liberty. They do not yet know which races they want to help keep on the calendar. For example, Chase has never been to a grand prix at Silverstone.
“It is not Liberty’s fault,” they added. “They would like to be of assistance but time has been too short and we will now give ourselves a longer stretch to sit down with them again and plan for the future.”
It is drawing very close to ‘make your mind up time’ too, with the deadline for triggering the break clause on July 14th. With this being two days before this year’s GP, Formula 1’s new owners will not even have a chance to attend the race and reconsider. The deed will have been done.
There is also the question of whether Mr Carey and Co. have any hunger to keep the British GP at Silverstone, with so much chat about increasing the number of street races on the calendar and his keen interest in a London Street race in particular.
So, unless there is a last minute investor or a change of heart on either side, it seems Silverstone has run out of options.
But what does that mean for the British GP? There are other race tracks in the UK. A few actually, but none could host Formula 1 without significant redevelopment, the possibility of which does not exist at all these facilities and the cost of which potentially wouldn’t outweigh the benefit of the task.
Johnny Herbert summarised the likelihood of the event moving to each of these venues here.
Could we be looking at a future with no British Grand Prix?