Silverstone to turn down Liberty's compromise proposal

LONDON • An offer by Formula One owner Liberty Media to take over the running of the British Grand Prix will be rejected by Silverstone.

The American media giant, which bought F1 for £6 billion (S$10.7 billion) last year, has found itself embroiled in the traditional summer sport of keeping the British race on the calendar, with the Silverstone owner insisting on a new deal.

The British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC), which owns the circuit, last week exercised a break clause in its 17-year deal to run the race until 2026, citing losses of £7.6 million in the past two years.

Liberty, frustrated at the BRDC's decision to do so in the build-up to yesterday's race, has offered to run the event for five years if it is given the circuit free for three weeks.

It might even be prepared to wipe out the race debts, but the BRDC is expected to decline Liberty's offer as it says it would lose £20,000 a day under the arrangement.

However, the gamble of using the break clause could backfire if Liberty does not turn out to be as sympathetic to the Silverstone cause as the BRDC believes.

Liberty chief executive Chase Carey said that European races were very important to the F1 story and that Liberty would work with Silverstone to promote the British Grand Prix.

The BRDC chairman, John Grant, has described running the event as ruinously expensive, but Carey appears puzzled that a circuit that attracted 350,000 customers last year, one of the best in F1, cannot break even.

The contract, which began at £12 million and escalates by 5 per cent a year, will cost £26 million by the end of the deal in 2026.

Carey said at Silverstone: "I don't understand some of their claims about their economics, particularly when I look at our business in other places. The people who run a good race seem to have a different picture than they are painting.

"But I don't have visibility to how they account, how they assign costs. I know we are not treating them unfairly. We are treating them consistently with others. We value Silverstone and we have three years to reach an agreement.

"Our preference is for Silverstone but the British Grand Prix certainly does not have to be here.

"We have had expressions of interest from other places in the UK, but I'm not trying to play one against the other."

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 17, 2017, with the headline 'Silverstone to turn down Liberty's compromise proposal'. Print Edition | Subscribe