British GP faces extinction from the F1 calendar after British Racing Drivers' Club triggers break clause

The British Grand Prix faces extinction from the Formula One calendar after Silverstone's owners triggered a break clause in its contract on Tuesday.

The British Racing Drivers' Club, which owns the Northamptonshire circuit, gave notice of its intent to leave its current deal in two years' time.

Its decision means 2019 will be the last year for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone unless a new deal is brokered with F1's American owners Liberty Media.

Nearly 140,000 spectators watched triple world champion Lewis Hamilton claim his third consecutive win at Silverstone last year.

And a near sell-out crowd is expected again this weekend as Hamilton bids to reduce rival Sebastian Vettel's 20-point lead at the summit of the championship.

Silverston. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

But the demands of the hosting fee which goes up by five per cent every year - from £12million in 2010, the year in which the new long-term deal started, to £16m this season and £25m in 2026 - is crippling Silverstone.

Liberty Media has staged a series of talks with both the BRDC and Silverstone.

But while Silverstone wants to continue its relationship with Formula One, it will not do so at the cost of financial ruin.

The Northamptonshire circuit, unlike many other tracks on the F1 calendar, receives no government backing.

"This decision has been taken because it is not financially viable for us to deliver the British Grand Prix under the terms of our current contract," BRDC chairman John Grant said.

"We sustained losses of £2.8m in 2015 and £4.8m in 2016, and we expect to lose a similar amount this year.

"We have reached the tipping point where we can no longer let our passion for the sport rule our heads. It would not only risk the very future of Silverstone and the BRDC, but also the British motorsport community that depends on us.

"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.

"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."

Lewis Hamilton at Silverstone Circuit in 2011. Picture: Rui Vieira/PA Wire.

The BRDC has been the custodian of Silverstone for almost 70 years - owning and operating the circuit, which is the only venue licensed to run a Grand Prix in Great Britain.

But the BRDC says the rise of the promoter's fee makes it impossible to cover the Grand Prix's share of Silverstone's overhead costs.

"It is with regret that I am today announcing that the British Racing Drivers' Club, the owners of the Silverstone Circuit, has triggered the break clause in its contract with Formula 1, now owned and managed by Liberty Media," Grant said at a press conference.

"This means that, unless a new contractual arrangement can be reached with Liberty Media, 2019 will be the last year that the British Grand Prix takes place at Silverstone - the only viable venue for a British GP.

"This decision has been an extremely difficult one for us to take. The BRDC is at the heart of British motor racing and we have been promoting the interests of our sport and its fans for generations.

"We've been the custodians of Silverstone for almost 70 years and have nurtured the British Grand Prix into one of the world's great sporting occasions. The BRDC has also invested £50m over the last 10 years to improve facilities here at Silverstone.

John Grant. Picture: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

"However, we have reached the tipping point where we can no longer let our passion for the sport rule our heads. Put simply, it is no longer financially viable for us to deliver the British Grand Prix under the terms of our current contract."

Grant said the current contract was signed to preserve the British Grand Prix and ensure the race was not lost in the calendar.

But he said: "The reality is that for many years the British Grand Prix has made a net loss. Despite being the most popular weekend sporting event in the UK - with a live audience of over 350,000 attendees - the net revenue we receive is not enough to cover the Grand Prix's share of our overhead costs, let alone turn a profit.

"This situation is not sustainable - for the BRDC, but also for the British Grand Prix and Silverstone. We cannot continue to sell our core assets in order to fund the Grand Prix.

"Put simply, we've run out of road and have been left with no option but to trigger the break clause.

"Our membership is fully aware of the financial challenges facing the BRDC and Silverstone, and the risks we have taken as an organisation to keep going up to this point.

"While we would hate to lose the British Grand Prix, Silverstone will have a bright future without it - both commercially and in terms of continuing to serve as the heart of the British motor racing community."

Grant, however, praised Liberty for making the changes to improve the F1 experience for fans.

"Putting fans at the centre of our sport is exactly what we believe in - that's one reason why Silverstone has become the most popular Grand Prix on the calendar," Grant said.

"That's why we've been in ongoing discussions with Liberty's new F1 team about how the situation could be resolved - putting forward a number of proposals that we believe could secure the long-term, financial viability of the event.

"Although we have now activated the break clause, we have made it clear that we are open to working with our friends at Liberty to find a solution that works for all parties."

A statement from Liberty read: "The week leading up to the British Grand Prix should be a week of great celebration for F1 and Silverstone.

"We deeply regret that Silverstone has chosen instead to use this week to posture and position themselves and invoke a break clause that will take effect in three years' time.

"We offered to extend the current deadlines in order to focus on everything that is great about Silverstone and Formula 1.

"Regretfully the Silverstone management has chosen to look for a short-term advantage to benefit their position. Our focus is still to preserve the British Grand Prix. We will carry on negotiating with the promoter in good faith and in private to reach a fair and equitable solution."

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