Silverstone ‘doesn’t have the luxury of time’

Silverstone will almost certainly have to pull out of hosting the British Grand Prix after 2019, the circuit’s management said this week.

The venue has a break clause in its current contract that means it can pull out of its current arrangement with Formula 1 at the end of 2019. The clause has to be triggered by mid July, just before this year’s event.

The circuit’s executive director Stuart Pringle said that they had little choice but to terminate the current contract.

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“We’ve made clear to the Formula 1 management we can’t live with the present contract beyond 2019,” he told The Guardian newspaper this week.

“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,” he added, after the circuit revealed a loss of between £2 million and £4 million in 2015.

Silverstone receives no money from the British government to help it stage the event. That compares to an eight-figure subsidiary from the Catalonian government helping underwrite the Spanish Grand Prix.

Under the current arrangements, Silverstone paid £12 million to hold the race in 2010. But a built-in scale will raise that to £27 million by the final year of the contract in 2026.

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Pringle said he hopes that the sport’s new owners Liberty Media will step in to help provide a solution.

“Liberty have got some great ideas and we support their plans for a better show and fan experience,” he 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,” he added. “I sincerely hope it won’t be the end of Grand Prix racing at Silverstone.”

While Liberty has indicated it wants to keen the British GP on the calendar, it’s also said that it is not open to renegotiating existing contracts.

Even if Silverstone activates the escape clause in July, there will still be a possibility to agree a new deal for 2020 and beyond. Whether than would be at Silverstone or not is another question.

The British Grand Prix has been a fixture on the Formula 1 calendar ever since the inaugural championship in 1950. But no other circuit in the UK currently meets the exacting FIA safety rules for staging a top-level event.

A street race around London has been considered as a possible replacement for Silverstone. However, talks are in an early stage and are likely to meet considerable obstacles before becoming viable.

 
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