The break clause has been activated as the owners of Silverstone, the British Racing Drivers’ Club, has decided that it can no long afford to host the British Grand Prix at the Northamptonshire track.
That means 2019 could be the last British Grand Prix. Frankly, I am amazed the BRDC has carried on this long with what is, essentially, a massive ball and chain around its neck.
Whatever the outcry from the public will be now, in no way should the BRDC carry the can if the UK loses its grand prix.
And it is still an ‘if’, not a ‘when’.
When the future of the race faced up to its last major crisis point in 2009, the BRDC was the only organisation brave enough to stick its hand up and protect the future of the British Grand Prix. No other party was willing to take the plunge on a deal that was going to be very hard to make work, but at least it had the guts to attempt to.
Instead of anyone criticising the BRDC for being unable to maintain Britain’s showpiece race, they should instead be thanking it for the last decade of F1 races that we’ve been able to enjoy.
The major problem is the increasing costs of the contract to host the race, which goes up by a certain percentage each year. In 2010, the first year of the new deal, the race cost £11.5 million to the BRDC. By the end of the contract in 2026, had it not triggered the break clause, that fee would have been £25 million.
It sounds like an outrageous contract doesn’t it… the likes of which could only have been drawn up by someone who wanted to screw every last drop out of the BRDC. But, of course, that person would then say that the BRDC didn’t have to sign the contract in the first place…
There has been a huge uproot in F1 since that deal was inked in 2009. Bernie Ecclestone, so often at loggerheads with Silverstone (and particularly the BRDC) has gone. In has come Liberty Media, and the BRDC has stated publicly that the event could continue if F1’s new leaders looked favourably on the race and its heritage.
It has put the ball in Liberty boss Chase Carey’s court. The BRDC has effectively made a cry for help – and this will be a good test of just how proactive Liberty is, how much it cares for the sport’s heritage and how much of its desire is purely commercially driven.
This could define the immediate perception of Liberty and its management in a lot of people’s minds.
It’s an intriguing game of cat and mouse but one, which if played in the right way, could possibly lead to the British Grand Prix having an even stronger future than ever with a realistic contract and a long-term commitment.
Let’s hope it can. But the alarm has been raised by the BRDC, and the people in charge of the sport need to take notice – before the race is lost for good.
As BRDC president Derek Warwick said on TalkSPORT last week: “We will just have to wait and see what is next but, unfortunately, I don’t think anything is really going to happen until people realise it has actually gone. It could be too late for everyone then.”