Sil­ver­stone tells F1 to cut fees or lose Bri­tish GP after 2019

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

The heart­land of For­mula One will lose its home race from 2020 un­less Sil­ver­stone is handed a cheaper deal to stage the Bri­tish Grand Prix. De­spite seven of the 10 teams be­ing based in Bri­tain and Sil­ver­stone at­tract­ing the big­gest crowds in the sport, the cir­cuit has told F1 owner Lib­erty Me­dia that es­ca­lat­ing race fees have made the his­toric race un­sus­tain­able.

Sil­ver­stone on Tues­day ac­ti­vated a break clause in the con­tract that was signed in 2009 when the Bri­tish GP was last un­der threat, pro­vid­ing two years’ no­tice of its in­ten­tion to walk away from F1. Los­ing Sil­ver­stone would de­prive the se­ries of a huge dose of its her­itage, given that the for­mer air­field first staged an F1 race in 1948 and the opened the in­au­gu­ral world cham­pi­onship sea­son two years later.

“We don’t have infinite re­sources to keep on sub­si­diz­ing the Grand Prix and it’s wrong to do that,” Bri­tish Rac­ing Driv­ers’ Club chair­man John Grant told The As­so­ci­ated Press as the cir­cuit was be­ing pre­pared for Sun­day’s race. “We only have one op­por­tu­nity to bring it to a stop, legally. We have this one op­por­tu­nity to ex­er­cise the break clause and we have to do it to­day.” The BRDC re­ported losses in 2015 of 2.8 mil­lion pounds (now about $3.5 mil­lion) and 4.8 mil­lion pounds in 2016. Race fees rise 5 per­cent an­nu­ally and will hit 16.2 mil­lion pounds for this week­end’s race. The race or­ga­niz­ers said the fee will have leapt to 25 mil­lion pounds by 2026 - the last year of the cur­rent con­tract.

F1 came un­der new own­er­ship ear­lier this year when US sports and en­ter­tain­ment firm Lib­erty bought out in­vest­ment fund CVC Cap­i­tal Part­ners. Lib­erty said Tues­day it is fo­cused on pre­serv­ing the race and promised to “carry on ne­go­ti­at­ing with the pro­moter in good faith and in pri­vate to reach a fair and eq­ui­table so­lu­tion.”

Red Bull team prin­ci­pal Chris­tian Horner was less diplo­matic, say­ing he was “amazed” the break clause had been trig­gered and ques­tion­ing the cir­cuit’s lead­er­ship. “They have now re­al­ized that they can’t af­ford it de­spite hav­ing a full house ev­ery year,” said Horner, whose team is based nearby in Mil­ton Keynes. “They ei­ther should not have signed it in the first place or they got their maths wrong. Sil­ver­stone gets fa­vor­able rates any­way.” Horner seized on the un­cer­tainty over the fu­ture of Sil­ver­stone as a chance to crit­i­cize the lay­out of the cen­tral Eng­land cir­cuit.

“They spent a for­tune on the pits and they put them in the wrong place,” Horner said. “They have cre­ated a pad­dock with zero at­mos­phere at one of the most his­toric race tracks in the UK, so there has been some se­ri­ous mis­judg­ment and mis­man­age­ment.” The BRDC claims that Sil­ver­stone is the most pop­u­lar stop on the F1 cal­en­dar, with 350,000 at­tend­ing a race week­end. Grant hopes that Lib­erty rec­og­nizes that the F1 brand is un­der­pinned by the tra­di­tional races.

“You can’t just go to a bunch of new video game cir­cuits and pre­tend the fans are go­ing to re­main in­ter­ested and pay,” Grant said.—AP

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