News that the Circuit of Wales had hit the proverbial Armco could not have come at a better time for Silverstone. Yesterday they announced that the F1 British Grand Prix might not be staged at the Northamptonshire circuit after 2019 because it was unaffordable giving their discussions with Dorna over the future of MotoGP a new urgency.
Amid accusations of ‘posturing’ and ‘serious misjudgement’ from F1s new owners Liberty and Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, who also happens to be a member of the BRDC, owners of Silverstone, the announcement was a more than interesting prelude to this weekends event.
British Racing Drivers Club chairman John Grant said that over the past two years Silverstone has lost £7.6m and similar losses were expected this year. He revealed that the fee to host the race had increased to £16.2m and because of a five per cent per year increase would reach £25m by the end of the contract in 2026.
He said that they had to trigger a break clause in the contract as it was the only legal option open to them.“It was absolutely not posturing. We had one chance to protect our future. We have to stop losing money,” he added.“We can no longer let our passion for the sport rule our heads. It would not only risk the future of Silverstone and the BRDC but the British motorsport community that depends on us.”
He does however believe that a new deal is possible and could be sorted out well before he has to pull the trigger but there is clear disappointment that the new F1 ownership was not more sympathetic to Silverstone’s plight, the only circuit on the Grand Prix calendar not receiving governmental subsidy.
It is a high stakes strategy, more than a game of bluff, based on the belief that with the majority of teams being based in the UK and with motorsport estimated to be worth £10.5bn to the British economy there cannot be a World Series without a British round.
But it leaves only two possibilities : 1) Liberty will reduce the fee - unlikely as it sets a precedent for other circuits to hold their hand out; 2) The circuit owners and the promoters will work harder together to raise more revenue - already promised but not yet delivered;3) The circuit is put up for sale again either when, or before, it goes bust- likely because the latter is inevitable unless something changes.
Meantime, MotoGP whose fee is 25 per cent of Fl, is definitely back on the agenda. Ticket sales etc. are probably half of F1 but less risk and Dorna may have to accept a bit less than promised by CoW. Unless, of course, it is snaffled by Donington. But at least they’ll get the money.
In any event, CoW and Game of Thrones were remarkably similar in that it in the end, it’s all tits and dragons.