Murmurs began to surface again this week of the possibility of the British Grand Prix moving from its spiritual home in Silverstone to the capital London.
There is a very difficult decision that needs to be made.
This year’s British Grand Prix, which takes place in a fortnight’s time, is scheduled to be the last at Silverstone after the circuit’s owners, the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC), activated the break clause in their contract in July 2017.
At the time, the BRDC chairman, John Grant, said, “We sustained losses of £2.8 million [$5.06 million] in 2015 and £4.8 million [$8.7 million] in 2016, and we expect to lose a similar amount this year . We have reached the tipping point where we can no longer let our passion for the sport rule our heads.”
The BRDC’s main problem financially is that they receive no government support for hosting the grand prix. This means that the BRDC relies on the income from ticket sales to cover the £18.3 million [$33 million] fee F1 charges. The British Government has never discussed whether it would fund the British Grand Prix, either partially or fully, and it is extremely unlikely that they would do so in future.
So, where does F1 go from here? The BRDC clearly does not want to host another grand prix because of the unsustainably high cost that goes with it. However, the British fans love Silverstone and want it the British Grand Prix to stay there, no matter what.
This is something Liberty Media must keep in mind. Last year’s British Grand Prix was the most attended grand prix of the 2018 season with 340,000 attending across the weekend, including 140,500 on race day. Who can argue that the British Grand Prix shouldn’t be saved with those kinds of figures?
Another problem that Silverstone faces is Liberty Media’s decision to cap the number of grands prix that will be held next year to twenty-one.
“We’ve not finalised the number of races in 2020, but we currently expect it to be 21, the same as 2019,” F1’s CEO, Chase Carey, explained. “Obviously the maths [sic] means that we will not be able to renew all our current races.”
This means that the British, German, Mexican and Spanish Grands Prix are all at risk of being dropped from the calendar. The return of the Dutch Grand Prix next May means that the Spanish Grand Prix has already lost its traditional slot on the second weekend of May.
Whatever Liberty Media decide to do in the end, they need to remember that, while F1 should jet off to new destinations like Vietnam, which hosts its first grand prix in Hanoi next April, this should not come at the expense of traditional and popular grands prix.