One of the favourite past times of the British, is discussing the weather. The more extreme the weather, the more parlance opportunities arise.
Well the English county of Northamptonshire is set to dish up a fairly inclement weather front or two over the village of Silverstone this weekend. Rain and high winds are expected, less so on race day however the air temperatures will be very much not summer-ish.
A handful of weeks before the 2015 British GP, the new circuit management decided to release sub £100 tickets for the weekend and race day. This delivered a record crowd for race day, believed to number in the region of 140,000. The down side was some fans who had paid for the admission a lot earlier were unhappy at the last minute discounts offered to others.
Despite the massive support for the F1 race in Silverstone, the circuit has fallen into arrears on its race hosting fees to Bernie Ecclestone and FOM. Ecclestone revealed last year, “they are paying next year for this year’s race because I have allowed them to do this otherwise they would have closed before.
The F1 supremo added a threat: “We have got a clause in our contract where we can stop it in 2016 and I don’t know if the race is going to continue next year.”
Unlike most F1 events, Silverstone receive no public funding, and agreed a contract up to 2015 which sees the annual race fee escalated by 5% each year. Last year the fee payable to Ecclestone was estimated at around £16m and so will rise in 2016 to just under £17m.
Threatened with the loss of the British GP, in recent years Silverstone spent around £35m to improve its facilities. The flagship development being the new paddock complex and ‘the wing’ along with a new section of the circuit. A new problem then arose, namely servicing the debt raised to deliver the improvement.
To deleverage, Silverstone management leased off land around the circuit for about £32m however, this in turn created a loss of rental income and so the circuit again is losing money year on year.
A quick look at Silverstone’s website reveals that grandstand tickets for almost all areas and all days of the upcoming British GP are still available. If the circuit is unable to raise enough funds from ticket sales to clear last year’s hosting fee, then Ecclestone has threatened to act and close down the event.
Yet the high water table following the exceptional levels of rainfall in the area this year – and in the past week – mean the organisers are faced with a poisoned chalice. More fans means more monjhey – but also probably more horror stories of mud baths and thousands of cars stranded in waterlogged car parks.
Silverstone was the home of the first F1 race in 1950, but is not the only grand old F1 venue struggling. Monza, the ‘cathedral of speed’ is also under threat of having its race cancelled next year too.
It could be that the Brits who brave the weather this weekend, are the last to see F1 motor racing at one of the sport’s iconic circuits.