British GP could leave Silverstone


They say that 'no news is good news', whereas the reality is that 'no news is no news', certainly as far as British F1 fans are concerned.

Last year, days ahead of the British Grand Prix, just months after Liberty Media bought Formula One, organisers at Silverstone exercised a clause in their contract which meant that the 2019 event would be the last.

In the immediate aftermath there was much rhetoric, especially from the sport's new bosses who insisted that a solution would be found.

However, on the day that Vietnam is welcomed to the schedule, and with that one British Grand Prix still remaining, there is currently no solution in sight.

In a nutshell, the British Racing Drivers' Clun (BRDC) which owns Silverstone cannot afford the hosting fee, hence the decision to terminate the contract early, and should FOM offer a deal organisers at other circuits would be sure to want similar reductions.

At the same time, the new bosses at F1 have made no secret that while they acknowledge the value of traditional circuits, they want to see the sport taken into so-called destination cities, cities like Miami and Hanoi.

In an interview, issued by F1 ahead of this weekend's Brazilian Grand Prix - one of only two races on the calendar that receive no government assistance - F1's commercial boss, Sean Bratches, has admitted that the future of F1 at Silverstone is in doubt.

"We're a 68-year-old entity and the nature of grand prix racing is that it is dynamic," he says. "Silverstone was the first grand prix, but we haven't raced at Silverstone all those 68 years. The race has been held at Brands Hatch and other venues.

"Nothing is immutable in this sport in terms of where we race," he continues. "We do value certain races highly and we do what we can to preserve racing there, but we are a business. We are a public company and we have a lot of stakeholders and shareholders and we're trying to marry what's best for fans with running a successful business."

In fact, since the first ever round of the Formula One World Championship, at Silverstone in 1950, the British Grand Prix has been held at just three circuits, the others being Aintree and Brands Hatch.

Though, under its previous management, an alternative was sought, Bernie Ecclestone doing an ill-fated deal with Donington, Silverstone remains the only circuit that could feasibly continue to host the event.

However, with an eye on those destination cities, FOM is clearly looking for an opportunity to hold a race in one of the world's most famous cities, one with an iconic backdrop that only a few years ago played host to The Olympics.

"We look at it in three ways," says Bratches. "Firstly, we want to preserve the heritage races, they are very important to Formula 1 and they are very important to fans. I'm talking about the Silverstones, the Spas, the Monzas of this world.

"Then we have a set of street races and hybrid street races, where we race in parks and on city streets, such as Melbourne, Montreal and Mexico City. The third segment features purpose-built facilities such as Shanghai, Austin, Texas and Bahrain. Beyond that we are looking to identify further street races, so this race (Vietnam) is a further step in terms of our vision."

"One of the things we have been intensely focused on is extending grand prix racing to iconic cities, in downtown areas, where we can best engage fans," he adds. "Most of our grands prix are currently half an hour to an hour outside cities, so the race in Hanoi fulfills of one of our preliminary goals, an iconic city hosting racing on a potentially thrilling street circuit. Vietnam's concept of what grand prix racing should be about matches our vision for the sport.

"We're the beneficiaries of interest from cities, states, countries, municipalities from around the world," he says, "and we have been taking a very cadenced approach in terms of how we go to market in terms of race promotion, choosing carefully so that potential races fit well with the existing structure we have and the direction in which we want to go in the future

"Historically Formula One has been very reactive in terms of people coming to them, but we have been more proactive, going to markets that we think are aligned with our brand values and which provide the opportunity to engage fans in new ways. A street circuit is a great way to do that. We have Monaco, Baku and Singapore and this is a great addition to that line-up."

A race on the streets of London has been talked about since the early 70s, yet other than a couple of promotional events nothing has come of it.

At a time F1 is facing stiff opposition taking to the streets of Miami, the chances of a Grand Prix on the streets of Britain's capital do not bear thinking about.

Intriguingly, though the future of the Grand Prix at Silverstone is under serious threat, Bratches still refers to it as one of the "heritage races", though we know from experience what importance the sport places on its heritage.

However, faced with the loss of live F1 TV coverage from next year, FOM might find that allowing the British Grand Prix - certainly on a "heritage" circuit - to drop from the calendar, is, from the point of view of British race fans, a step too far.

Article from Pitpass (

Published: 07/11/2018
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