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Does the British Grand Prix have to be held at Silverstone?

As Silverstone ponders its options, we explore whether there are any potential alternatives available to host the British Grand Prix.
With Silverstone considering its options with regards to hosting the British Grand Prix, the future of the iconic event appears to be under threat if a new deal cannot be sourced.

Owners have aired concerns that Silverstone's long-term contract - which concludes in 2026 - will leave the venue in financial ruin, sparking fears it will exit the deal after the 2019 race.

But does the future of the British Grand Prix really begin and end with Silverstone? Could it find a new home? We look at the most feasible options…

Brands Hatch alternated British GP hosting duties with Silverstone until 1986

Brands Hatch

There are many who would dearly love to see the British Grand Prix return to Kent's Brands Hatch circuit, having alternated hosting duties with Silverstone between 1964 and 1986. The venue has seen numerous iconic races and the striking image of F1 cars plunging into the marvellous Paddock Hill Bend at T1 is firmly etched in the memory of older fans.

However, while Brands Hatch remains a very active venue on a national stage and has played host to most international racing series' over the years – including World Superbikes, DTM, WTCC and European F3 -, it is ultimately restricted by its surroundings.

The circuit's layout has barely changed since F1 last visited, when even then it was considered the sport had outgrown the venue and would require modification to cope with the higher speeds, particularly around the fast far end of the circuit.

Furthermore, Brands Hatch is subject to strict noise restrictions which means the extended Grand Prix layout can only be used for a handful of days and there are curfews one when engines can be fired up.

Owners Motorsport Vision – owned by Jonathan Palmer, father of current F1 racer Jolyon Palmer – has signalled a renewed F1 interest in the recent past, but while Brands Hatch is the flagship venue in MSV's impressive portfolio – including Oulton Park and Snetterton -, options are limited to attract the sport.

Donington Park has hosted an F1 race before but came close to collapse in its attempts to secure British GP rights in 2008

Donington Park

Many were taken off guard in 2008 when Donington Park secured a mammoth 17 year deal to host the British Grand Prix from 2010, but ultimately the deal proved to be only worth the paper it was printed on.

Though the fiasco nearly proved the financial ruin of Donington Park, the venue – which had a brief but famous spot on the F1 calendar under the European GP moniker in 1993 -, it suggested the land and layout is conducive to hosting F1, while the circuit benefits from being relatively easy to access.

However, there appears to be little appetite amongst circuit owners at this stage, not least because F1 would require a substantial overhaul of the facilities, as well as the circuit itself.

“Since the very successful restart of Donington Park six years ago, the board at the circuit has consistently made it clear that we have no intention of bidding for the British Grand Prix,” a spokesperson told Sky Sports F1.

As such, anyone hoping to evoke memories of that first lap by Ayrton Senna in 1993 are likely to be sorely disappointed.

The Circuit of Wales could be the UK's first international motorsport venue for more than 15 years… if it does indeed get built

Circuit of Wales

A potential option in theory, but actions speak louder than words in the Circuit of Wales' case.

The ambitious multi-million project was first announced in 2013, the intention being to host the MotoGP World Championship from 2016. However, though it has won hosting rights from Dorna, CoW has run into numerous issues with planning and investment, meaning to date no progress has been made on construction.

Intended to be built in Ebbw Vale, though the prospect of a brand-new international-standard circuit – the UK's first since 2001 – has been welcomed, the ongoing stumbles have raised doubts over whether it will ever go ahead, while others have questioned the wisdom behind its relatively isolated location.

Despite the hurdles, circuit bosses are still pursuing their options. Indeed, it is worth pointing out that on the day Silverstone's concerns were first aired, CoW happened to announce a new deal with the Extreme group to develop its facilities and hosting potential as a multi-purpose venue.

Though F1 was never strictly in its original plans, the prospect of such a huge event could in theory prompt a change in approach from bosses – particularly as ground hasn't been broken – and while the circuit has been designed to FIM standards, it is feasible to assume it could be brought up to necessary FIA Grade 1 standards too.

Either way, progress needs to be seen soon though if it isn't to be considered a credible option.

Rockingham got a royal opening in 2001 but hasn't made its mark on the international motorsport scene

Rockingham

The UK's newest venue, the Rockingham Motor Speedway was opened to great fanfare in 2001 by the Queen no less with grand designs on becoming an international motorsport centrepiece for the country. However, its global reach would be limited to just a couple of CART races in 2001 and 2002.

Since then Rockingham has hosted national events and established itself as a premier multi-purpose motorsport venue for track days and conferencing, but it seems unlikely it will ever be used for anything more than this.

The facilities would need to be upgraded and while the oval element gives it an Indianapolis feel, the current infield – despite its multi-configurations – is arguably too flat and featureless to be considered as it is.

We wish…

Cadwell Park

Not likely in the slightest, but we can spare a moment thinking about a Ferrari tackling the Mountain…



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Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Scuderia Ferrari SF70H

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ZEDX

January 11, 2017 11:03 PM

This puts Silverstone into a difficult situation ... as the only circuit that can host a modern F1 race weekend, they have to decide whether to go with Bernie's escalating fee system and cough-up and worry about sustainability / massive debts, or throw their hands up and admit defeat, and apologise to all the fans. I don't know how the finances work, but maybe they could run a WEC event or similar there instead? If I were in their shoes, I might look at the long-term and say... actually F1 is diminishing in popularity, (with the rise in interest in FE and sports cars generally) then if Bernie/Liberty want to put on an F1 race they can pay us to host it, or build their own circuit. Call their bluff effectively..



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