The British Racing Driver’s Club (BRDC) and Silverstone have triggered a break clause in the contract with Formula One leaving the future of the British Grand Prix unclear. The result of this will see an end to the hosting of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in Northamptonshire after 2019, ending an unbroken run of Grand Prix hosting since 1987.
The money involved and the costs behind Formula One are immense, and the British Racing Driver’s Club say that they simply cannot continue unless a new deal is thrashed out. BRDC say that they braced themselves with losses of £2.8million in 2015 and a staggering £4.8million in 2016. Crucially, the racetrack receives no government backing.
The cost of hosting F1 at Silverstone increases every year by 5 per cent; in 2010 the figure was £12million and in 2016 it had reached £16million following the start of a new long-term deal, though it is set to rise to £25million in 2026.
The outcome is not set in stone as yet though, and BRDC Chairman John Grant hopes that a suitable agreement can be reached with the owners of Formula One, Liberty Media, in the time period leading up to 2019.
The ramifications are potentially serious though, as Silverstone, which has been in the hands of the BRDC for close to 70 years, is arguably the only suitable host for Formula One currently existing in Britain.
While Formula One is hugely popular and commands massive prime TV viewing figures around the world, things are changing. In 2016, United Kingdom TV viewing figures for F1 dropped by over 5 million. That number was significant in actual UK viewing dropping to 21.8 million – the lowest for 12 years.
Reports analysing this slump suggest that F1 coverage switching from the BBC to Channel 4 and Lewis Hamilton failing to do so well are likely to have contributed.
That UK figure of 5 million actually amounted to half of the reported total worldwide viewing drop of 10 million down to a total 390 million worldwide viewers. Add to this the reported drop in UK Grand Prix attendance by 1,000 and Sky taking over the TV rights from 2019 and the future is looking a little unstable.
All this must be a bit of a baptism of fire for the relatively new American owners Liberty Media, who only bought F1 in January 2017 for $8billion and are apparently looking at negotiating more pay TV deals. While pay TV will indeed pull in some much-needed cash, the overall popularity and viewing figures suggest that this may be a risky move in itself.
Images: independent.co.uk, formula1.com