BRDC chairman John Grant has confirmed in letter to members that the Silverstone circuit will considering terminating its F1 contract from 2020. The news comes as a shock to Motorsport fans around Britain. The 2016 British GP attracted a record attendance over the four day weekend, with 122,000 spectators on Race day.
The letter to BRDC members was leaked to ITV News. It read, “Your board would like to preserve the BGP at Silverstone for many years to come, but only if it makes sense to do so,” he wrote. “And we have to protect our Club against the potentially ruinous risk of a couple of bad years.
“Without some change in the economic equation, the risk and return are out of kilter, and so we are exploring various ways in which this might be altered.
“Among other alternatives, the Board is considering whether we should give notice before the 2017 BGP (as required) of our intention to exercise the break clause in the BGP contract at the end of 2019. This is not a simple decision, and we will consider fully all the implications before coming to a conclusion by mid-year.”
BRDC president Derek Warwick was quoted last year as saying, “At the end of the day, if you can't afford it, you can't afford it,” he said. “We've supported the British Grand Prix now for many years without any kind of third party support or government support.
“We've spent over £50million building the Wing, changing the circuit, and doing everything Bernie wanted in order to secure the grand prix. But now we are in a situation where the escalator [clause] has become too expensive for us.”
Silverstone did not comment on the reports, however did confirm that the Grand Prix is secure up to 2019.
So where now for the British Grand Prix?
Formula 1 cannot afford to loose its historic races. Silverstone is where F1 started back in 1950; it is one race that should never be lost, especially given the fan base in the UK. Bernie Ecclestone however, does not appear too concerned. “If they want to activate a break clause, there is nothing we can do,” he told ITV News.
“Two other tracks have contacted us and we are keen to keep a British Grand Prix, there is no doubt about it, we want to have one. As far as Silverstone is concerned, it's not in our hands.”
There have been concerns recently too regarding the Italian GP at Monza. The Belgium GP was in difficulties some years ago, Imola vanished, the German GP has been dropped, and the French GP vanished but will now thankfully return. It seems the Formula bosses are realising that these historic races are important to the sport. The return of the French GP and more recently the Austrian GP underline this.
Is government support the answer? Many would say it isn’t the answer, classing Motorsport as a wealthy and elitist sport. In fairness it is difficult to argue with this. But with many Formula 1 teams based in the UK, and hundreds more individual companies and engineering firms dotted all around, it is clear Motorsport is big business for Britain. But this is a argument for Silverstone, who have been struggling for some time now. If the venue were to be sold to a private investor, perhaps this would be the best solution.
With all the alterations made to the circuit including the new layout, pit building and infrastructure, it is impossible to see how another British circuit could match what Silverstone has to offer. I believe a sale of Silverstone, would yield the best outcome for all keeping the British Grand Prix, where it belongs.
It would be great to know your thoughts, Tweet me @TomWilkinsonF1.