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F1: London race an ‘ideal’ option with Silverstone’s British GP future in doubt

The Week logo The Week 06/12/2018 Mike Starling
a view of Silverstone Circuit © Provided by Dennis Publishing Limited

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The future of Formula 1 racing in the UK is under the spotlight as Silverstone prepares for its possible final hosting of the British Grand Prix in 2019.

Next year’s British GP, scheduled for Sunday 14 July, is the last one on the current contract between Silverstone and F1 owners Liberty Media.

Video: Is Silverstone's future safe? (Sky Sports)

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In July 2017 the owners of the Northamptonshire circuit, the British Racing Drivers’ Club, activated a break clause in its F1 contract that releases them from hosting the race beyond 2019. The Daily Mail reported at the time that “potentially ruinous” costs were a factor in the decision.

John Grant, chairman of the British Racing Drivers’ Club, said last year: “This decision has been taken because it is not financially viable for us to deliver the British Grand Prix under the terms of our current contract.

“We sustained losses of £2.8m in 2015 and £4.8m in 2016, and we expect to lose a similar amount [in 2017]. We have reached the tipping point where we can no longer let our passion for the sport rule our heads. It would not only risk the very future of Silverstone and the BRDC, but also the British motorsport community that depends on us.”

Working on a new deal

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 23:  Sean Bratches, Managing Director (Commercial Operations) of the Formula One Group, walks in the Paddock before practice for the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 23, 2018 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images) © Getty Images ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 23: Sean Bratches, Managing Director (Commercial Operations) of the Formula One Group, walks in the Paddock before practice for the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 23, 2018 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)

F1 bosses are “very hopeful” that a new deal with Silverstone can be agreed for 2020 onwards, but nothing is yet confirmed.

Sean Bratches, F1’s managing director of commercial operations, told Sky Sports News: “There has not been a lot of change in terms of the last time we spoke. We are having discussions and conversations around the business terms and both genuinely trying to get a deal done.

“Silverstone - it speaks for itself - it’s an extraordinary brand. It’s the home of the first grand prix.”

What about a London Grand Prix?

City of London at night, UK © Getty Images City of London at night, UK

An alternative to Silverstone, or even a future addition to the F1 calendar, could be a possible London Grand Prix street race.

Mayor Sadiq Khan told the BBC last year he was “keen” to speak to F1 about a London GP and Bratches revealed that talks have been held.

“We are having conversations with the mayor’s office and conversations with cities around the world,” said Bratches.

“Certainly if there was an opportunity in London for us to race in the great streets here this would be an ideal circumstance - both for London and for Formula 1 fans around the world.”

Ecclestone has doubts over London

Former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone looks on during the first practice session at the Yas Marina circuit on November 23, 2018, in Abu Dhabi, ahead of the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix. (Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE / AFP)        (Photo credit should read GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/Getty Images) © Getty Images Former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone looks on during the first practice session at the Yas Marina circuit on November 23, 2018, in Abu Dhabi, ahead of the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix. (Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE / AFP) (Photo credit should read GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/Getty Images)

One person who does not expect a London race to happen is former F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone.

The 88-year-old told Speed Week: “We looked at it years ago. It’s too complicated, too many restrictions. We had so many meetings and in the end the difference was £3m.

“I said ‘that’s the cost of the bottled water at the meetings we still need to have. So let’s just forget the whole thing’.”

Pictures: The British Grand Prix at Silverstone (motor1.com)

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