Britain’s Silverstone circuit hosted F1’s first ever official race in 1950 and has been a key stop on the calendar for the last 30 years, but 2019 could be the last time the British Grand Prix is staged at the track due to a financial dispute.
Silverstone’s owners — the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) — say the cost of hosting the race isn’t viable anymore.
And ahead of this year’s event on Sunday, the BRDC is now on a collision course with Liberty Media after formally triggering a break clause in its contract with F1’s new owners.
“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,” said BRDC chairman John Grant.
“We sustained losses of £2.8 million ($3.8 million) in 2015 and £4.8 million ($6.1 million) in 2016, and we expect to lose a similar amount this year.”
The decision is also bad news for British motorsport as Silverstone is currently the only UK circuit with the necessary classification to host F1 races.
Best attended F1 race
The British GP typically attracts more than 350,000 spectators over the course of a race weekend — making it the best attended F1 race in the world — as well as a global TV audience of over 400 million.
In 2009, a deal struck with F1’s previous owners stipulated a promoter’s fee should be paid by the BRDC to host the British race.
However, under the terms of the contract, the promoter’s fee has been increasing by 5% every year and the BRDC says it has now reached a “tipping point.”
“We can no longer let our passion for the sport rule our heads,” said Grant.
“It would not only risk the very future of Silverstone and the BRDC, but also the British motorsport community that depends on us.”
By 2026, the last year of the current contract, the fee would have risen to £25 million ($32 million).
The BRDC is open to renegotiating a deal with Liberty Media, but the British organization’s opening gambit hasn’t gone down well with F1’s owners.
“The week leading up to the British Grand Prix, should be a week of great celebration for F1 and Silverstone,” said a Liberty Media statement sent to CNN.
“We deeply regret that Silverstone has chosen instead to use this week to posture and position themselves and invoke a break clause that will take effect in three years time.
“We offered to extend the current deadlines in order to focus on everything that is great about Silverstone and Formula One.
“Regretfully the Silverstone management has chosen to look for a short term advantage to benefit their position.
“We will carry on negotiating with the promoter in good faith and in private to reach a fair and equitable solution.”