Silverstone boss praises F1 owner Liberty Media


Silverstone managing director, Stuart Pringle has praised F1 bosses for their approach to the sport, compared to the former management.

Courtesy of the likes of Drive to Survive - as opposed to a radical improvement in the actual racing - F1 is enjoying something of a boom at present, and as a result everyone appears keen to get in on the act and reap the benefits.

Silverstone, which enjoyed a love-hate relationship with the sport's previous owners, is among those delighted with the way the sport is currently shaping up.

Indeed, Silverstone managing director, Stuart Pringle claims that, unlike the previous owners of the sport, Liberty Media isn't "crushing" race promoters.

"It's such a commitment, the British Grand Prix," he said at an exhibition in Birmingham. "The fee is eye-watering, the cost of delivery keeps you awake at night and the fixed cost base is extraordinarily high as a result.

"It's a given to sell out Sunday," he continued. "We got to selling out Saturday a few years ago and now Friday is all but gone as well and that's where your profit is.

And if you don't make a profit - Mr Ecclestone - you cannot reinvest in infrastructure," he added, emphasising the identity of who he clearly regards as the architect of the circuit's previous issues .

Of course, the battle with Ecclestone to retain the Grand Prix at Silverstone has passed into F1 folklore, and one can understand where Mr Pringle is coming from.

However, much of Silverstone's financial headache was the result of poor management, and while Ecclestone, in addition to an eye-watering fee, demanded upgrades to the track, he never called for the vanity project that is 'The Wing'.

Nonetheless, Pringle insists that under Liberty increased profits have meant the circuit's owners, the British Racing Drivers' Club - have been able to reinvest more, even though projects such as the on-site hotel and trackside accommodation come at the expense of long-term fans.

"It's creaking and groaning because the BRDC was unable to make a profit out of the Grand Prix for 40 years," insisted Pringle. "But I'm pleased to say that the owners of F1 take a sensible view that it is not in their interests to crush the promoter and they recognise that the BRDC invests all of its money back into the facilities. If we put in better facilities, we get a better experience for the fans. If we get a better experience for the fans, it's better for the championship all round and everyone is a winner.

"I'm really enjoying working with F1 at the moment," he added. "They're enlightened, they're challenging us they're doing amazing things."

While F1 had been looking to reduce race weekends to a two-day format, Pringle would like to see the British Grand Prix become a four day extravaganza.

"We're looking to extend the weekend," he admitted. "I'm working hard on Formula 1. I believe they need to change the format of the weekend.

"They say: ‘Oh well it's the FIA, they've got to do the systems test and stuff', well, do them a day earlier. Let's do some stuff on Thursday. There are a lot of people who want to come and see things, and three days isn't really enough.

"Let's make it that big, best part of a week's festival. People do turn up at Silverstone on a Tuesday and put the tent up, and that's it, they're in."

Of course, fans booking tickets for this year's Grand Prix - which remains a three-day event - were gutted to discover that in a bid to capitalise on the sport's increasing popularity, Silverstone was using a dynamic pricing system which increased prices according to demand.

As the system collapsed under demand and fans logged-in again only to discover that the price had dramatically increased, such was the outcry, Mr Pringle had to issue an apology as the system was temporarily shut down.

"I am extremely sorry for the frustration, upset, disappointment and anger this has caused," he said at the time. "We are going to do a root and branch review on all of this. I am not closing the door on doing anything differently next year, we will consider anything and everything. Nothing is off the table. We have learned a lot of lessons and we can't have a repeat of this year."

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Published: 15/01/2023
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