'Highly probable' Silverstone will end British GP contract


Media reports this weekend suggest Silverstone is on the brink of formally terminating its contract to hold the British Grand Prix.

The circuit currently has a deal to host the race until 2027. However, organisers have repeatedly made it clear that they cannot afford to continue under the current terms.

The contract initially fixed a fee of £12 million to hold the race. That increases by five per cent per annum, reaching £26 million in the final year.

The British Grand Prix is Formula 1's best-attended event of the season. 139,000 people attended last year's race. However the lack of any government financial support means it is still unable to cover its costs.

The British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC) has said that if a solution cannot be found, it will have to trigger a break clause which will mean the last race at Silverstone will be in 2019. It has to do that before this year's race on July 15.

"It is highly probable we will have to activate the break clause," BRDC director Philip Walker told The Mail on Sunday this week.

Walker has been involved in talks with F1's new owners Liberty Media about changing the existing contract. While sympathetic, Liberty has said it will not change the existing terms as it would set a dangerous precedent for other races.

"It is not Liberty's fault," a senior BRDC figure who asked not to be named told the newspaper. "They would like to be of assistance.

"But time has been too short," the source added. "It has come too early for Liberty.

"They do not yet know which races they want to help keep on the calendar. For example, Chase [Carey, new F1 boss] has never been to a Grand Prix at Silverstone."

The BRDC is hoping to put on a spectacular show for this year's race. The schedule has been expanded to four days to pack everything in and also generate extra revenue. Organisers hope that fan support over the long weekend will demonstrate to Liberty the importance of the race to the sport.

Three-time world champion Lewis Hamilton - himself a member of the BRDC - this week added his voice to calls to save the race.

"There has got to be something in Britain. It's the most important race of the year," he said. "Being in the beautiful countryside, and the support you get from the British fans, it's an amazing event that people love to come to.

"It's that important part of the British racing heritage. And it's the place where we really get to showcase it," the Mercedes driver added.

Even if Silverstone does formally activate the break point in the existing contract in time, the race could still be saved. The BRDC would be able to start negotiations for a new contract to hold the race from 2020.

"We will now give ourselves a longer stretch to sit down with them again and plan for the future," acknowledged the unnamed BRDC source.

No other circuit in the UK is likely to be able to replace Silverstone and hold the British Grand Prix. However, a street race in London continues to be rumoured.

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