Racing will survive in Northamptonshire - with or without the Grand Prix - claim track bosses
Silverstone circuit can survive even if the British Grand Prix ceases to be held in the county from 2019, racing circuit owners claimed, though today's announcement could put the multi-million-pound motorsport industry in the county at risk.
In the last few hours the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC), the owners of the Silverstone racing circuit formally triggered the break clause in its contract with Formula 1, now owned and managed by Liberty Media.
The BRDC said the most popular sporting event in the UK continues to make substantial losses each year, due to under the terms of its current contract with the new Formula One owners.
Speaking at a press conference at the circuit today, BRDC chairman John Grant said the high-tech industry around the circuit known as the “Silicon Valley of motor sport” would be put at risk if the Grand Prix contract were to end.
The circuit itself though, he said, can survive.
"We are convinced the ourselves that Silverstone does have a viable future with or without the Grand Prix," he told the conference.
"As it stands we don't make any money out of the Grand Prix."
Mr Grant said there were a number of plans in the pipeline for the circuit, even if the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel may not be gracing it in 2020.
The £20 million Silverstone Experience, an interactive motorsport museum housed within the only remaining World War Two hangar on the site, is set to open in spring 2018.
in May, Silverstone revealed its new rallycross circuit to host the World Rallycross Championship in 2018 also.
But when asked whether he had considered selling the circuit to Liberty Media, Mr Grant said all options were on the table.
"We are open to considering all alternatives," he said. "with the hope of finding a sustainable future for the British Grand Prix.
"BRDC's strategic direction is not to sell the Silverstone Circuit.
"We have seen ourselves as the guardians of British motorsport and we think having the BRDC retain ownership of the circuit helps us to achieve that long term objective.2
During today's press conference at the Silverstone UTC, the BRDC were accused of 'posturing', in order to strengthen their negotiating hand against Liberty Media.
The timing of the announcement, the day before thousands of fans are due to descend on the famous circuit, could be seen as a shot across the bow of the F1 bosses, who are keen to retain the classic European circuits on the calendar.
But Mr Grant, who said ticket prices could not be pushed up much further to cover the BRDC's losses, said that the get out clause in the contract was triggered on the last possible day.
"(As per the contract) we have given the minimum two years' notice and the last day we could activate it was the day before the event starts.
"Today is the last day we could have activated it."
Negotiations between the BRDC and Liberty Media could now take weeks, or the full two years according to Mr Grant.
Speaking to the Chron, managing director of Silverstone Circuit Limited said today's announcement was no 'bluff'.
He said: "We are being 100 per cent realistic. One of the potential outcomes here is that we will not have a British Grand Prix in at Silverstone.
"We are doing this with a heavy heart."
The BRDC’s current contract to host the British Grand Prix - agreed in 2009 with the previous owners of Formula One – requires the organisation to pay a promoter’s fee to Liberty Media in order to host the British Grand Prix.
This promoter’s fee increases by five per cent every year, meaning that over the first eight years of the contract, the five per cent escalator has increased the fee from £11.5 million in 2010 to £16.2 million in 2017.