Silverstone finished – British GP returning to…

silverstone-maggots-becketts-hanger-straight-f1
Dark clouds are gathering over the British Grand Prix after Silverstone Circuit owners, BRDC (British Racing Drivers Club), announced they have strong doubts concerning the financial cost of staging the event.

Silverstone has a contract to host the British Grand Prix until 2026, but it holds a clause that enables Silverstone to get out of the contract. This clause must must activated before this year’s Grand Prix. If activated, this means the UK could go without a Grand Prix after 2016.

BRDC chairman John Grant commented to this situation:

“What might be termed ‘the Elephant in the room’, of course, continues to be the future of the British GP,” he said. “It is widely recognized that no European circuit makes money from running a Grand Prix. We believe Silverstone does better than most, regularly attracting a large and enthusiastic crowd and putting on as good a show as we are allowed to do. Although, even in a good year, the BAP does not generate enough cash to cover its share of the site overheads, our major concern has always been the risk of a bad year.”

To give reader some insight, we would like to mention that the 2016 Grand Prix received  139,000 fans, who witnessed Lewis Hamilton take victory in his home race. Still the event “fell short of budget,” with the 2015 running coming in at a £2m loss. Adding 2016 and 2015 revenue, Silverstone made a loss. Since years they have been struggling to turn a profit.

This news is coming at a time that other venues have started rationalising their F1 investments. An example is the Malaysian Grand Prix. Their contract is under threat once its current contract expires in 2018 due to rising hosting fees and declining ticket sales. The Italian Grand Prix signed a 3 year deal after much difficulty and pressure of organising the Grand Prix at Imola. Although it appears that we’ll see it’s return at Paul Ricard Circuit, the French Grand Prix had ceased to exist already in 2008. The German Grand Prix has been stricken of the 2017 calender, with Hockenheim reluctant to host the race in successive years, also for financial reasons!

Silverstone hosted most of the Formula 1 World Championship race from the 1950 on. Other circuits include Aintree and Brands Hatch. However, Silverstone has always been considered the spiritual home of Formula 1.

The UK government has not intervened in 2003 and 2009 when the circuit faced similar problems. It is highly unlikely them will do so this time.

Meanwhile F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has reported to have said: “I don’t see why they [Silverstone] can’t make it work. They get bigger crowds than anywhere else in Europe, and nobody else is complaining.”

Most current teams, including champions Mercedes, are UK based. Force India’s HQ can actually see Silverstone tarmac. The only exceptions are Ferrari, Torro Rosso (Italian based) and Sauber (Swiss based).

Will UK teams go without a home race?

Just to give you a feel of UK alternatives, let’s make a round of possible replacement circuits.

Donington Park

On the 4 of July 2008, Donington Park actually announced they had been awarded the contract to host the British Grand Prix for 10 years from 2010. However, Donington failed to secure the necessary  funding (£135 million development costs. Investments nearly killed off the track completely) to host the race, and its contract was terminated in November 2009.

doningtonpark2010

The failed F1 redesign of 2010

Donington Park’s board has been quick to refute any notion of stepping in to replace Silverstone as the host of the F1 British Grand Prix.

“The board has consistently made it clear that we have no intention of bidding for the British Grand Prix,” a Donington Park spokesperson said to The Guardian.

Brands Hatch

Brands Hatch organised the 1986 Grand Prix, and it’s lap record (albeit in GP form) still stands at 1:09.593 and was set by Nigel Mansell in his Williams-Honda at this event. Attempts to host subsequent races have been made, but races never materialised.

Proposed F1 redesign of 1999 - Pilgrim straight now the start / finish with paddock

Proposed F1 redesign of 1999 – Pilgrim straight now the start / finish with paddock

A major problem for the circuit are the noise restrictions which have been put in place to appease nearby residents. These restrictions include:

  • No racing before 10am on Sundays (no engines can be started before 9.15am)
  • A single international motorcycle event each year.
  • Limitation to six days of noisy cars, each year.

In addition the circuit would need substantial work to meet the latest F1 safety regulations, and would probably need track changes to increase chances of overtaking (currently the Druids hairpin is the only spot where overtaking is realistically possible).

Proposed 1992 F1 redesign - avoiding residential areas for noise restrictions

Proposed 1992 F1 redesign – avoiding residential areas for noise restrictions

Also the pits area would need to be redesigned as the paddock is too small.

And even then the problem of accessibility would need to be resolved.  Currently a British Touring Car event with 40,000 fans cause major traffic problems. (Imagine 130.000+ F1 fans!).

Rockingham Motor Speedway

Would F1 accept an oval? Many F1 fans would consider it too “American”. Rockingham offers some of the best viewing for fans thanks to nearly all of the circuit being visible from the stands and the concrete wall would leave zero to none margin for error.   (Yes, ovals do have some small perks!).

The infield does have a road course that incorporates part of the banking – used almost exclusively by all racing events of recent times. This course is just over 2 miles but could easily be extended to an Interlagos / Indy GP course length of 2.5 miles with a redesign. A potential British Indianapolis perhaps?

The current 2.1 mile road course

The current 2.1 mile road course

Rockingham has only been used by F1 teams for filming so far, but F1 race director Charlie Whiting has been reported to have said it would take little to bring it up to standard.

Traffic to and from the circuit would still be a problem, as a single road leads to the circuit.

It can still be considered a new track, but it is not up to F1 standard. The pits area would need enlarging, and the track itself would need work.

As the track was built for oval racing, it also has an American-style circuit design of a concrete wall separating the garages from the pitlane. This would need a complete redesign before hosting a race.

Circuit of Wales

What about the proposed Circuit of Wales?

The biggest problem is that building work is yet to commence at the £425m facility near Ebbw Vale, with the Welsh government refusing to underwrite the project in the summer of 2016. Will it come into existence?

circuit-of-wales

The Circuit of Wales currently has the rights to stage Britain’s round of the MotoGP championship until 2024, but the absence of an actual circuit means it is forced to host the race at Silverstone (!!!)

Circuit director Michael Carrick has been quoted to have an interest in F1. In 2015 he said “It is an interesting question, but it is not in our business plan, it is not our objective and it is not a decision a circuit can do on its own. Protecting the British GP in Britain is our priority. Will it happen in the future? I don’t know, the question isn’t one for the circuit operator to answer.”

We can start wishful thinking, but without a track built, any chance of moving F1 to Wales will continue to be daydreaming.

In short, we at TheJudge13 continue to think Silverstone is the only realistic option. Have we missed a viewpoint? Just let us know.

Note from the ED: If the Jury could make it be known to us their ‘money and changes no object’ alternate circuit should Silverstone be struck off the calendar – where would you like to see the British GP be held?

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24 responses to “Silverstone finished – British GP returning to…

  1. “I don’t see why they [Silvestone] can’t make it work. They get bigger crowds than anywhere else in Europe, and nobody else is complaining.”

    Really! So what about the mess the German GP is in? What about the problems with finding money for the Italian GP?

    The reality is that Bernie has pushed up the hosting fees to a level that is impossible to maintain without funding from a government. There isn’t a hope in hell of the UK government putting money in to subsidise the race. They pushed and pushed for it when the last contract was negotiated, but it isn’t going to happen. There may be a financial argument for the government putting money in, but it would be political suicide to effectively subsidise one of the richest sports in the world.

    • I think that the key point here is that BE ran out of f*cks a very long time ago.

      The pas de deux of the deal is his only interest. There’s no fun to be had when the counterparties cry poor.

      The slightly hysterical desire from multiple interested parties for the British GP to continue? Advantage Mr Ecclestone.

      • Well his job is to extract the maximum amount of money he can from F1 for CVC. It seems he is doing a very good job, although I do suspect that CVC are getting out at the top. I can only see TV revenues falling, and the same goes for hosting fees. Silverstone isn’t the only circuit that can’t keep up this ridiculous level of fees.

        • Yep, Bernie is a great employee for CVC. His style has matched his times perfectly – state-sponsored sports events, abundant petrodollars, desireable personal transport, fossil fuel power being acceptable.

          The wheel is turning on all those fronts though – it’s time for a last few deals. Liberty will strike out in a different direction more in keeping with the zeitgeist. (Note that I didn’t say Liberty’s direction would be better).

          Bernie’s the master of engineering asymmetric negotiations and taking full advantage. He probably can’t remember the last time he looked around the room and couldn’t spot the sucker and I doubt BE actually ever forgets anything – no matter what he might mumble in a press interview.

          A remarkable character. A walking four-letter-word, but remarkable nonetheless.

          • “fossil fuel power being acceptable.”

            Why don’t you shuffle off to Formula E and on your way check that your solar panels and wind turbine are working and hug some tress. Then you can settle in for a sleep in your cave

          • Hey, cav. I see you have a fantastic riverside penthouse apartment with sweeping views over de Nile 😉

            Enjoy it while you can, with sea levels rising and all that jazz…

          • Enjoy it while you can, with sea levels rising and all that jazz…

            Keep drinking the Kool-Aid………………….

  2. F1 is being to smell, I think it’s on the turn.

    Bernie’s circus is only interested in chasing the money. There is enough money in F1, that they can’t expect Circuits to relie on government funding for a race. Soon it will only be the stupidly rich states that can afford F1.

    Broadcasting only over subscription channels, is meaning it will be sport only for the middle aged, middle class.

    There’s already issues finding decent sponsors, now it will also be decent circuits and spectators, then drivers and hype.

    The new owners need to reboot quickly.

  3. “All current teams, including champions Mercedes, are UK based. Force India’s HQ can actually see Silverstone tarmac. The only exceptions are Ferrari, Torro Rosso (Italian based) and Sauber (Swiss based).”
    Actually, that’s 63%, so hardly all.
    Please get someone to proof read this. I truly appreciate the effort done to research and write these pieces, but errors make it difficult to get through.

  4. I Would Not Be Surprised If The scot Green Mist Guy Had Something To Do With This.

    GO, 44 !

  5. Every red blooded racing fan has fan has seen this coming over the last few years. The problem has a very simple solution. Free to air tv so fans can follow fly away races, ticket prices that won’t break the bank for the live events and finally a fair hosting fee for the hosting track. Get these right and the fans will be back,please see motogp/WEC/and any number of weekend racing here in the UK…Packed circuits with everyone happy whilst promo get a smaller but fairer cut.

    • The problem is that maximising the number of fans isn’t the way to maximise the money that F1 can generate. Look at the TV deals – the non free-to-air companies are apparently able to offer 2 or 3 times the amounts that the terrestrial companies can. Yes the audience will reduce but Bernie will get more money so he wins.

  6. This is the BRDC droning on again about how life is so tough etc etc. The same BRDC that has many, very rich ex-drivers and other F1 hangers on, who choose to domicile themselves offshore to avoid UK tax. They then bleat and moan and expect the UK government to contribute using money obtained from UK tax payers, a group they have decided to abandon.

    Very reminiscent of the banks in 2008 who lost their money and got bailed out only to repeat the process. And then expect some sympathy.

    With 10% of the tax avoided, SIlverstone would become the richest circuit in the world.

    • Unfortunately the BRDC is not a hedge fund, and the members wealth does not relate to how it operates.

    • BRDC has 800+ members. I am not 100% how they handled the ownership of Silverstone in legal terms, but I am pretty sure they don’t own 1/800 of the circuit each… I also don’t think they all have the same amount of money in the bank, and I suspect they don’t all live in Monaco.
      Having individuals pay for the pleasure of many doesn’t feel exactly right, except if your name is Trump, in which case I would suggest you pay for everything.
      Some drivers have done well, but only the top 5% was/is paid exceptionally, and that only applies for the last 25 years. Before that pay was a lot less.
      Not really sure who you are suggesting should pay: members of BRDC who might have avoided tax or that the goverment should give a 10% tax cut to Silverstone. The large difference with the 2008 crisis, is that society needs banks, but does not need F1. F1 is a luxury many do without. Close a bank, and tomorrow you will have difficulty filling up your car with petrol.
      In any case, Aaron is completely right in that for govenments would be political suicide to effectively subsidise one of the richest sports in the world. RogerD is quite right in suggesting that the Bern-man’s job is to make F1 money, and actually is good at it. The question at hand is “How greedy does Bern-boy need to be to destroy F1”? But the bus doesnt even stop there: the Bern-bopper doesn’t do it all only for himself, the teams are just behind him in this feeding frenzy..

      The only way out of this is “la revolucion!”

      • Viva la revolution!!… The F.O.U.N.D party (formula one under new dictatorship) movement is now gaining strength. Our aim is to strip every last fan of the shirts off their backs and to leave the sport with nothing but memories (only because we don’t know how to charge for a flash back).
        We will continue to provide Me E with a life elixir and in the event of a burning at the stake or exposure to sunlight,the group shall forever worshipped at the feet of the great man.
        Circuits will fall along the way but new venues will be found in countries rich in motor sport. We have just begun talks within Nepal and many emerging volcanic islands. We aim to promote a future fuel for our sport and have heard good things about the benefits of coconut oil,its a good green renewable fuel plus the girls will enjoy the rum mixers.
        Don’t worry people, we at F.O.U.N.D are here to protect and promote our beloved F1..Long live MrE and long live the sport.

  7. Hold the British GP at Zandvort. What’s there not to love about a circuit with names like Tarzan, Hugenholtz, Hunzerug
    I guess the only question is would the Dutchies actually buy tickets – instead of their usual response – just looking, not buying.😝

  8. Well, Wales obviously, under the same terms as MotoGP. Just so long as they don’t spoil it by actually building a circuit in Wales

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