The British Grand Prix has been saved from Formula One extinction following the announcement of a new £100million deal.
The sport’s oldest race had been under threat following a two-year saga, sparked by Silverstone triggering a release clause in its contract.
But a new five-year agreement signed off by F1’s owners Liberty Media, Silverstone, and the British Racing Drivers’ Club on the eve of this weekend’s event, ensures the Northamptonshire circuit will continue to stage the British race beyond this season and through until 2024.
“Silverstone is one of the most iconic grands prix on the F1 calendar and with such a rich heritage it would have been disastrous for the sport and fans had we not managed to find a way forward,” said John Grant, chairman of the BRDC, which owns the track situated on the site of a World War Two Royal Air Force bomber station.
F1 chairman Chase Carey added: “We have been clear from the outset that this is one of our signature races. It was always our goal to renew the deal, and we have worked hard to find a win-win proposition that we are both excited about.”
Under the old contract, signed when former supremo Bernie Ecclestone was at the sport’s helm, Silverstone was set to pay £26m to stage the race. The new hosting fee is thought to be in the region of £20m a year.
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A major sticking point in contract negotiations was F1’s pursuit of a race in London. Discussions remain ongoing over the staging of a grand prix in the Docklands, with Carey confirming at Silverstone that a race in the capital remains a possibility.
Silverstone, situated 70 miles north of London, is wary that another race in the UK could dent its ticket sales, but Grant says assurances have been put in place.
“We were concerned about the commercial threat to us having a competitor event on our doorstep,” added Grant. “So, we have had very frank and open discussions with F1.
“We have come up with a modus operandi set of arrangements which protects our interest if London becomes a reality.
“There is room for the two races to co-exist as long as they have sufficient separation in time between the races and our commercial interests are recognised.”
Britain’s five-time world champion Lewis Hamilton will head into Sunday’s race bidding to win his home grand prix for a record sixth time.
The Mercedes star holds a 31-point title lead over team-mate Valtteri Bottas with a sixth world championship likely to follow this season.
A record crowd in excess of 140,000 are expected through the turnstiles on Sunday, but Stuart Pringle, Silverstone’s managing director, acknowledged that it has had to assess life after the British star.
Pringle said: “We have been very conscious throughout this process that we are living in a time where there is enormous excitement around the five-time world champion Lewis Hamilton and he is, in part, driving our gate.
“We have had to do our calculations as to what it will look like with a less good gate and we have had to put prudence into our calculations. We have to run this business with a little bit of slack. We cannot be on the rev limiter all of the time.”
Hamilton, who has prepared for his home race by spending time in Los Angeles, will be at Silverstone on Thursday to fulfill his pre-race media duties.