Alternatives to Silverstone steer clear of GP bid

Bernie Ecclestone confirmed there was a break clause but that he was keen to maintain the meeting and had been contacted by other tracks.
Bernie Ecclestone confirmed there was a break clause but that he was keen to maintain the meeting and had been contacted by other tracks.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON • The future of the British Grand Prix remains in doubt despite suggestions from Formula One's chief executive, Bernie Ecclestone, that two circuits had been in contact regarding holding the race.

Silverstone's owner, the British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC), was revealed on Thursday to be considering dropping the race after 2019 owing to the cost.

However, alternatives are thin on the ground and several contenders have already ruled themselves out.

The chairman of the BRDC, John Grant, told members of the "potentially ruinous risk" of hosting the race, saying that it has the option to end the contract - which runs until 2026 - in three years.

Ecclestone responded by confirming there was a break clause but that he was keen to maintain the meeting and had been contacted by other tracks.

Silverstone is the only circuit in Britain with the necessary grade one classification to host F1 races and the difficulties for alternative venues are both technical and financial.

Three other British circuits have grade two status and they would have to undergo considerable development.

Donington Park, which won the right to host the grand prix in 2008 but had to pull out after it was unable to meet the £135 million (S$238.7 million) cost of redevelopment, has had no contact with Ecclestone and has no interest in holding the race.

The second circuit with grade two status, Rockingham Speedway, was equally unequivocal, with Peter Hardman, the chief executive, saying it had not approached Formula One Management (FOM) and has no intention of doing so.

The third, Brands Hatch, which co-hosted the race with Silverstone between 1963 and 1986, is part of the Motorsport Vision (MSV) group owned by the Renault driver Jolyon Palmer's father, Jonathan, who has successfully developed it as a business.

MSV declined to comment on any plans or whether it had been in touch with Ecclestone but any bid would still require a huge undertaking.

The high cost, despite attendances of over 130,000 for the past two years, has resulted in Silverstone considering pulling out.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 08, 2017, with the headline 'Alternatives to Silverstone steer clear of GP bid'. Print Edition | Subscribe