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The future of the British Grand Prix

NEWS STORY
17/11/2008

The question on everyone's lips is whether the British Grand Prix has a future and the latest news about its financial situation make it even tougher to come up with an answer to this.

A recent report in the Express newspaper by Pitpass' business correspondent Chris Sylt revealed that the company which runs Silverstone, current home of the British Grand Prix, made an after-tax loss of 147,000 last year. It looks like the annual 10% increase in the cost of the hosting fee for the race has finally caught up with Silverstone's owner, the British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC) since the circuit posted a 1.3m profit for the previous 18-month period which included two Grands Prix.

Silverstone had total costs of 30.8m in 2007 and its biggest single overhead is believed to be the estimated 12m fee for hosting the F1 race. This isn't something it may have to endure for much longer since the British GP is set to move to Donington in 2010.

BRDC chairman Stuart Rolt says he is "confident that the company will remain viable without the Grand Prix from 2010 and well beyond." Without the ball and chain of an F1 fee to pay, it may well be able to do this since Silverstone is otherwise in good financial shape. Apart from some minor operational leases, it is debt free and although its cash in the bank decreased by 2.3m during 2007, it still totals 8.5m.

The circuit produced a redevelopment plan as part of its bid to retain the GP and Rolt adds that this is still being pursued "with a view to re-gaining the British Grand Prix, if the opportunity arises." He may well get his chance.

In September, Lee Gill resigned from his post as chief operating officer of the Donington F1 project and its public relations firm pulled out around the same time. It has hired market research firm Comperio, which began carrying out focus group studies this month, but planning permission to make the necessary changes to the circuit has not yet even been granted.

This could make the ideal opportunity for Silverstone to step in and save the race. That is, unless F1's chief executive Bernie Ecclestone has other ideas about how to fill the calendar slot with an event which pays bigger bucks. He recently said that if Donington is not ready in time the race will be cancelled regardless of the fact that F1 now has a British world champion in Lewis Hamilton.

"Even if Lewis is world champion, we will simply say we will get on with the calendar and that England won't be included," Ecclestone said. If it came to this it would make the recent congratulations heaped on Hamilton by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown seem rather ironic.

"I want to congratulate him on becoming world champion. I think the whole of Britain is proud of the inspirational Lewis Hamilton and the McLaren team," said Brown. How much of an inspiration Hamilton can be without a home showcase may be one question to which we soon get an answer.

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