New F1 commercial rights owner Liberty Media, could halt the demise of the British Grand Prix, according to the British Racing Drivers Club (BRDC).
Earlier in the week it was reported that Silverstone could activate its break clause, releasing the BRDC from their contract to host the British race at Silverstone until 2026. BRDC chairman John Grant warned that costs had become too high, and that hosting the grand prix was no longer financially viable for the circuit.
The break clause would need to be activated before this season’s race in July, which would mean the British Grand Prix at Silverstone would be no more as of the end of 2019.
But Grant has become more optimistic of the possibilities in recent days, feeling that Liberty Media’s involvement in F1 could make things easier on them, as he told Autosport.com recently.
“A few things are going in our favour. The impending change of F1 ownership should be helpful medium-term.
“Liberty seems genuinely sympathetic to our point of view.
“We need a rebalancing of the economic equation. We’re exploring lots of ways and talking to a number of parties.”
Due to the political backlash they would likely receive, the British Government has never invested in the sport, unlike other countries whose Government’s provide assistance for the honour of hosting a F1 race in their homeland, but Grant feels that other forms of public support may be a viable alternative to gain funding.
“There are compelling arguments for public money to be used, but we understand F1 is seen as a rich sport.
“I don’t think a cash handout would be politically possible, but some other form of public support may be.”
If the worst comes to the worst, and the BRDC do resort to exercising the contract clause, Grant has made it clear that it does not automatically signal the death of the British Grand Prix.
“If we do exercise it we don’t see that as the end – it would be a basis for further negotiation.
“We would not see it as irrevocable.”
The BRDC have been doing all they can to invoke interest from third parties in supporting the circuit, with the likes of Jaguar Land Rover, Motorsport Vision and Ginetta owner Lawrence Tomlinson all involved in talks with the venue, but so far those negotiations have fallen on deaf ears.
But their current financial position does now appear to be looking stronger, with other events having boosted Silverstone’s income, such as being chosen to host a round of the World Rallycross in 2018, and having funding approved for its £20m Heritage Experience.
“We got terrific support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and now local councils and enterprise partnerships have got together to provide much of the balance of the required funding.
“This is a big step forward because it should attract half a million new visitors to Silverstone every year, and that provides a stronger business case for the hotel, which has been on our wish list for years.
“With all these things starting to go our way our general feeling is more optimistic, so we’re feeling under less pressure to have to do a deal immediately [to sell Silverstone].”
That is great news for the British racing public and F1 fans in general, who had felt we could be about to say goodbye to one of the most historic and long standing races in the sport.
This latest insight makes for much better reading and will hopefully allow the BRDC more time to find a positive solution for all.