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Silverstone boss "disappointed" by lack of progress on GP's future

NEWS STORY
01/07/2019

They say that no news is good news, but in reality no news is no news.

While Formula One Management likes to do its negotiating away from the public spotlight, with just two weeks to go before the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, there is still no official news on whether it will be the last.

While there have been numerous soundbites insisting how important Silverstone is to the sport, much talk of heritage and the fans (yawn), Silverstone MD, Stuart Pringle admits that there is still no deal in place and that he is "surprised and disappointed" by the lack of progress.

"I'm surprised and disappointed this isn't sorted already," he tells Autocar. "I don't want 130,000 people to turn up for the 2019 British Grand Prix and not know whether there will be another one."

Realising that the ever increasing hosting fees didn't make financial sense, in 2017 Silverstone's owners, the British Racing Drivers' Club, exercised a clause in their contract to end the 17-year deal. Since then, though there has been much rhetoric, there has been no agreement, certainly nothing that the BRDC is willing to accept at this time.

"We can survive without F1, we absolutely could," said Pringle. "To use a well-worn phrase, genuinely no deal is better than a bad deal because we know the consequences of a bad deal. It is paralysis to our business.

"I fully accept that we don't pay as much as 'Timbuctoo' or the latest place F1 has signed up," he added, an obvious reference to Vietnam which joins the schedule next year. "But Timbuctoo doesn't have a fan-base that year on year, come rain or shine, come British champion or not, turn up and pay their money.

"Silverstone is in effect a tax collector for F1," he continued. "The fans pay their ticket, the money washes through our company and we hand it across to F1. If everything adds up, we break even or make a small black number. If it doesn't it's a red number, we cover the difference and call it 'brand value' or something."

He was also keen to dismiss talk that the government should assist the circuit.

"Suggestions that government support should be there in Britain is nonsense because we've seen it with Turkey, India, Malaysia and they are no longer on the calendar," he said. "There's a reason why we've had a grand prix every year in this country since 1950 and that is the fee is paid by the enormous fan-base, and that is a strength, not a weakness.

"Silverstone is owned by the British Racing Drivers' Club, and there are 800 racing drivers and those who made their success possible, and they passionately want to keep their sport at the circuit. So my brief is to retain it, but don't break the company while doing so.

"I will be very disappointed if we are not able to announce something before or at this year's event, but if we can't it is because there is a monumental difference between us.

"I have always believed that we will retain it and even though we are in this extraordinary position I still believe the fundamental values that Silverstone adds to F1 will count," he concluded.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Bill Hopgood, 02/07/2019 19:38

"Back in the 70s and early 80s the tracks did have a cartel if that is the right word and Bernie Eclestone did a great job in breaking that up, read the late Phil Ker's book about that.
There were safety concerns and the teams were not making money. It was worse for bikes.
The tracks had too much power back then however now the pendulum seems to have swung too far to the Commercial Rights holder.
In the West the squeeze on the tracks is two fold with losing money and taxpayer support.
The Melbourne Grand Prix is hanging in there and I think it is only a matter of time before the state pulls the pin, and in a way, so they should. That being said, governments have no trouble spending someone else's money particularly if there is the odd Paddock Club pass and trophy ceremony on offer to sweeten the deal.
Corporate Welfare (backed by dubious value statements about visitor numbers) is not an acceptable way to run a venture.
That is why Silverstone has survived, despite some odd decisions to prioritise their spending in the past ten years (wing roof, the end of the pits in a dip).
Hopefully a new deal is struck and a template for other tracks to follow comes out of Silverstone's negotiations, then again, if some country or state stumps up with $50M to "celebrate their motoring heritage and showcase their nation to the world" then Liberty would jump at it."

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2. Posted by TokyoAussie, 02/07/2019 4:37

"The fact that as many 340,000 spectators turn up and the event is still in the red says everything you need to know about F1's business model. It's unsustainable, a bubble that must burst.

Liberty's job is also made harder because F1 had already reached peak greed under Bernie. There's no blood left in the stone that can be squeezed out.

And now for my pet rant:
Silverstone must negotiate with Liberty in cooperation with other circuits. While they negotiate on their own, they have little to no power (which is exactly how Bernie wanted it). Negotiate as a group and survive. Negotiate alone and flounder (or lose the event). Liberty negotiates for the good of Liberty. Silverstone needs to negotiate for the good of the sport."

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3. Posted by bfairey, 01/07/2019 18:39

"Why doesn't Hamilton buy it ? he has the money. Or share it with the other rich guys, Coultard etc."

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4. Posted by Fambank, 01/07/2019 17:20

"Britain and indeed Silverstone is home of motorsport and Formula 1.
While the sport is a bit of a crises, it cannot ever become homeless.
Despite the challenges of English Summers almost every year have
hampered the British Grand Prix, in 2018 140.000 showed up for the
race, and an ashtonishing 340.000 over the weekend.

If Liberty cared so much for, in their words, what the fans want, then
a Silverstone deal should have been done and dusted long ago, and
dare I say it, even to a bit of financial loss for LG, as this GP is pure
advertising for F1."

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5. Posted by GrahamG, 01/07/2019 14:00

"Most sensible thing I have heard about this issue in ages and Silverstone are entirely right in their position
Silverstone is important to all of UK racing, and if F1 demands potentially damage that then let yet another good F1 location fade away at the expense of yet another transient exotic location with bags of (someone's) money. One day there will be enough really good, fan supported circuits outside the F1 nonsense to support a simple basic single seater formula which fans will (and can) flock to see."

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