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British Grand Prix at Silverstone in doubt over rising fees charged by F1

The Guardian logo The Guardian 21-05-2017 Giles Richards
Lewis Hamilton: Watching Lewis Hamilton race in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone could soon become a thing of the past. © AFP/Getty Images Watching Lewis Hamilton race in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone could soon become a thing of the past.

Silverstone has given the strongest indication yet it may cease hosting the British Grand Prix, putting the future of a Formula One race in this country in doubt. The circuit’s executive director is again considering giving notice of its intent to instigate a break clause that would allow it to leave its contract in 2019 and will make its decision before this year’s race on 16 July.

Stuart Pringle said: “I sincerely hope it won’t be the end of grand prix racing at Silverstone but we’ve made clear to the Formula One management we can’t live with the present contract beyond 2019.”

The contract, set to run until 2026, includes an escalator clause that raises the hosting fee each year. It is understood to have been £12m in 2010, rising to £27m by the contract’s conclusion. The grand prix is hugely popular and attracted 139,000 fans last year, a similar figure to that of 2015 but it is understood the circuit still made a loss in 2015 of £2m and £4m last year.

Liberty Media has said it wants to help venues to attract more fans but for Silverstone this is not the problem, it is that rising fees cannot be met by ticket revenues. “Liberty have got some great ideas and we support their plans for a better show and fan experience,” Pringle said. “But they will likely take years to produce a significant benefit to the circuits and we haven’t got the luxury of time. We need to deal in certainties and not possibilities.”

The owners of Silverstone, the British Racing Drivers’ Club, warned in January the contract was potentially ruinous and of activating the break clause. There was hope of making an agreement with Liberty. The chief executive of F1, Chase Carey, however insisted at the last grand prix in Barcelona that there would be no contract renegotiation.

Silverstone receives no public funding to host the race unlike many other tracks around the world. The Spanish Grand Prix receives an eight-figure sum to underwrite the race from the Catalonian government and in common with other European tracks does not, like Silverstone, have to cover traffic and policing costs. “We are pretty much a full house and we are charging pretty much a full price and we still can’t make the sums add up,” Pringle said.

The circuit is the only one in the UK with the classification to host F1. There are no other credible alternatives to take on the race and should Silverstone opt out and no replacement be found, it would be the first time since 1950, when the world championship began, without a British Grand Prix on the calendar.


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