FOM will not renegotiate with Silverstone

16/05/2017
NEWS STORY

In a classic case of 'different year, same sh*t', in January we reported that over the Christmas break BRDC chairman, John Grant, had written to the club's members warning that while keen to retain the British Grand Prix the club could no longer ignore the "elephant in the room" admitting that the increasing hosting fees for the event were a "potentially ruinous risk".

"Among other alternatives, the board is considering whether we should give notice before the 2017 BGP (as required) of our intention to exercise the break clause in the BGP contract at the end of 2019," he warned. "This is not a simple decision, and we will consider fully all the implications before coming to a conclusion by mid-year."

When Christian Sylt subsequently quoted a source close to the track as saying the event would be dropped, the claim was denied.

"They will definitely drop the Grand Prix and see what is going to happen over the next two years," said the source. "It's a two year notice period. They will have to give notice. There is no question about it because it is not affordable."

BRDC chairman Derek Warwick, revealed that he was "talking to the government to see if there is any help there" and revealing that the BRDC had already met F1's new owners Liberty Media to discuss the circuit predicament.

Warwick's comments were followed by a statement from Grant insisting that no decision would be taken before July.

"Our objective is to preserve the British Grand Prix at Silverstone for many years to come," he wrote, "but, of course, we can only do this if it makes economic sense.

"We will be considering over the next six months if we should give notice of our intention to exercise the break clause in our Grand Prix contract at the end of 2019. No decision has been made, or will be made, until mid-July.

"In the meantime, we will be using this period to explore with all interested parties, hopefully in private, various ways in which we might work out a more sustainable proposition."

In fact this didn't tell us anything we didn't already know, because that fact is that if the British Grand Prix is to be dropped after 2019, FOM does not have to be officially advised until the days ahead of this year's event... in July.

Days later and Chase Carey was widely quoted as saying that the event at Silverstone was "safe", even though he had never said any such thing.

"We will have a British Grand Prix," he told BBC Sport. "The foundation of the sport is western Europe and we want to grow it.

"There's a negotiating dynamic that exists," he added, "but we want a healthy relationship with our promoters. We are going to look at ways of making events bigger and better."

Less than a week later, Carey clarified his and FOM's stance, there would be no renegotiation.

"We are not going to renegotiate with Silverstone, but we will work with them to be good partners," he told the Mail on Sunday.

"We want to help them promote the race," he added. "When there is an NFL game in London, the shops in Regent Street are full of it. We want to do that sort of thing with the British Grand Prix and also make the event broader, with the race at the centre of a full weekend show.

"The British Grand Prix is an important race in the calendar," he added. "Although we want to stage new races in 'destination' cities such as London, New York, Miami and Los Angeles, we recognise the European foundations of the sport and want to continue that tradition."

After that things went quiet, which left most under the impression that the issue would be favourably resolved.

However, while for most the Liberty Media honeymoon continued, Pitpass continued to warn that F1 is - as it always was - a business, and that Liberty, like CVC before, was out to make a profit. Indeed, before it could even consider a profit it had to start paying off the many loans it had taken on in order to finance the deal.

In case anyone hadn't noticed, the situation was made crystal clear earlier this month when Sean Bratches, the head of FOM's commercial wing, was asked, in view of keeping the iconic circuits like Silverstone on the schedule, whether hosting fees might be reduced.

We're a business," was the telling and understandable response.

Over the Barcelona weekend, as the FOM - media love-in continued, John Grant met with Carey to discuss the future of the Grand Prix.

With two months before the opt-out deadline, the news wasn't good.

"We will not be renegotiating the contract," Carey told The Mail on Sunday. "We value Silverstone and we want the race to be a success and will work with them to help achieve that, but we won’t be redoing agreements that were previously concluded in good faith between two parties.

"Silverstone made money last year," he added.

"We want to keep the race," a BRDC figure was quoted as saying, "but not if it kills us."

Ignoring the hosting fees issue, FOM has made no secret of its desire to see F1 on the streets of capital cities, and for an American company a London skyline beats the hell out of the wilds of Northamptonshire.

With no hope of a government bail-out, the only other solution would be for Silverstone to double, maybe even triple ticket prices, an idea that was widely mocked when Formula Money suggested it in 2009.

Article from Pitpass (http://www.pitpass.com):

Published: 16/05/2017
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