Silverstone set to end British Grand Prix contract after 2019


File photo dated 10-07-2011 of Cars round the first corner during the Formula One Santander British Grand Prix at Silverstone Circuit, Northampton.

It is now almost certain that in the coming days Silverstone will exercise an option to end its contract hosting the British Grand Prix, Reuters has reported.

The last contract signed in 2009 was meant to end tensions, but has instead done the opposite, F1 insiders believe.

Writing on the BBC Sport website Andrew Benson, chief F1 correspondent, said: "F1's former boss Bernie Ecclestone had a difficult relationship with Silverstone. Baiting them, criticising the track, its owners and pretty much anything to do with the race became a sport for him. For Ecclestone, the problem was rooted in Silverstone's inability to pay him the money he wanted to host the race.

"The British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC) has to make the event work financially, and as Ecclestone's fees went up, that became increasingly difficult. This is still the core of the problem."

The cost of the contract is also on a five per-cent annual escalator, meaning that the race will cost Silverstone £18.6m to hold in 2019, up from £12m in 2010.

The BRDC has said that without enough funds, it puts the future of F1 at Silverstone under a "ruinous risk", the club currently loses £2-3m each time they host the race.

The other problem with Silverstone is that it is privately owned. Unlike other Formula 1 circuits, such as those in Bahrain and Russia, the British government does not contribute.

While negotiations did begin with Liberty Media, the new owners of F1, and Silverstone, talks have now reached deadlock too. The US owners have also said the current contract cannot be renegotiated.

While many are panicking about the end of British F1, it is likely Silverstone wants to "renegotiate a new one [contract] on better terms," Benson said.

New F1 boss Chase Carey has made it clear that he does value Silverstone, and that the British Grand Prix is irreplaceable.

Carey told the Austrian newspaper Kleine Zeitung: "Europe is definitely the cradle of Formula 1... so these events have the best chances to stay".

There has been talk about races being held in "destination cities", such as in London, but the practicalities of this are not feasible. Questions over money, location and pollution remain significant.

What is clear, though, is that there are still many issues to be resolved.

By Ted Welford