British Grand Prix May Need a New Home in 2020

British Grand Prix May Need a New Home in 2020

One year after the owners of the Silverstone Circuit announced they were ending their 17-year contract early with Formula One to hold the British Grand Prix, the race may still not have a home starting in 2020.

The event was first held at the track in 1950, but the British Racing Drivers’ Club, which runs the race, exercised its option to break its contract after the 2019 race.

“We have reached the tipping point where we can no longer let our passion for the sport rule our heads,” John Grant, the club chairman, said when the announcement was made last summer. “Put simply, it is no longer financially viable for us to deliver the British Grand Prix under the terms of our current contract.

“However, I want to be clear that although we have now activated the break clause, we are fully supportive of the changes the Liberty team are making to improve the F1 experience,” he said, referring to the Liberty Media Corporation, which owns Formula One. “Our hope is that an agreement can still be reached, so that we can ensure a sustainable and financially viable future for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone for many years to come.”

Stuart Pringle, the managing director of Silverstone Circuits, said it did not want the race to disappear.

“Fifty million pounds have been invested over the last 10 years to create a world-class venue for fans to enjoy one of the greatest global sporting events, and we are working hard to reach an agreement with Formula One that will ensure a sustainable future for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone,” he said.

The club may have had other options. According to people close to Formula One, who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak to the media, it proposed taking over the race until 2022, absorbing the losses. The club would then have five years in which to stabilize its finances before taking control of the contract for the 2023-27 grands prix.

The sources said the offer was rejected and discussions continue.

Formula One said that it was continuing to negotiate, but that it was also looking at alternatives.

“In my mind the conversations are positive and very constructive, and equally we are evaluating our options as to where else might be a possible alternative, because you always have to face that factor,” said Chloe Targett-Adams, global director of promoters and business relations at Formula One.

“The focus for us is very much on retaining the British Grand Prix on the calendar,” she said. “If there is no agreement that can be reached, then obviously we are looking at alternative locations, and we will see where we get to. We’re hopeful that over the next couple of months we will reach a positive outcome with Silverstone.”

Options to find another track are limited.

There are more than a dozen racetracks in Britain, but International Automobile Federation (known by its French acronym F.I.A.) safety standards require that Formula One racecars can run only on Grade I tracks, a standard based on the speed of the cars.

Silverstone is the only such track in the country, but Donington Park and Brands Hatch, tracks that have previously hosted Formula One grands prix, are Grade II, so they would have to be raised to Grade I to hold the grand prix.

But hosting a race is not simply about meeting safety standards. Access for fans and racing personnel is essential, and traffic management has a major role in an event’s success.

The roads around Brands Hatch in Kent, which has a capacity of 50,000, far below the 130,000 spectators who attend the British Grand Prix at Silverstone each year, already are overcrowded, with traffic jams during its smaller races. Despite its relative proximity to London, about 25 miles southeast, public transportation is limited.

The track last held a Formula One Grand Prix in 1986. Housing developments are now on the borders of the property, with some residents complaining about noise from the track. Racing events are subject to a noise curfew, preventing engines from running before 8.30 a.m. and after 6.30 p.m.

Donington Park in Derby has no such restrictions. The circuit is near the East Midlands Airport and also hosts live music festivals in the summer.

But Donington has a mixed Formula One history. The track was supposed to take over the British Grand Prix from Silverstone in 2010, with a 17-year deal announced in 2008. But by late 2009, it became clear that the Donington project, run by Donington Ventures Leisure, lacked the necessary funds.

In November 2009, Donington Ventures went into administration, and by December Formula One Management, then the sport’s commercial rights holder, had announced that the British Grand Prix would remain at Silverstone under a 17-year deal running from 2010 to 2026.

It is that deal the British Racing Drivers’ Club opted out of last year.

Since taking control of the sport in early 2017, Liberty Media has been vocal about bringing Formula One to “destination cities.”

Speaking last January, Chase Carey, the chief executive, said his aim was to turn the Formula One calendar into a series of Super Bowls.

“We have 21 races — we should have 21 Super Bowls,” Carey said. “They should be weeklong extravaganzas with entertainment and music, events that capture a whole city.”

Silverstone is a classic circuit, which was the first to host a Formula One World Championship race in May 1950. The track was built on the site of a World War II airfield between the towns of Northampton and Milton Keynes. The area does not fit Carey’s definition of a destination city, but London does.

The city has hosted races before. Formula E held races in central Battersea Park in 2015 and 2016, and Formula One ran nonchampionship races at Crystal Park, in the south of the city, until the 1970s.

In April 2017, the government passed legislation allowing for closed-road racing events without an act of Parliament, clearing one hurdle from holding a grand prix in London.

In an interview with Sky Sports News last July, Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, said he was open to a Formula One race in the city.

“Clearly, if it’s the case that talks have broken down with Silverstone, I’m happy to talk and listen to F1,” Khan said.

“We’re good at organizing events safely,” he said. “I’m reassured we can make everyone safe in London, and we’re going to make sure events are successful. I’m sure F1, working with us, can in the future have an F1 race in London. Watch this space.”

Targett-Adams of Formula One said the idea of a London race was exciting.

“As a Londoner, I would think on a personal level that would be the most epic event that you could possibly think of,” Targett-Adams said of a race in the city. “It really would be the greatest racing spectacle on the planet. Equally, when you’re looking at a street race location there are many restrictions that you have to work to, and that is something that we are evaluating as a possibility.”

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