Silverstone could be preparing to axe the British Grand Prix rather than complete its current long-term F1 contract if it puts the venue at 'potentially ruinous risk'.
In a letter circulated to British Racing Drivers' Club members on December 19th and seen by ITV.com
, BRDC Chairman John Grant suggests consideration should be taken to going to the most extreme measure of canning its blue riband event or put the venue at risk.
As it stands, Silverstone has a contract with Bernie Ecclestone's FOM to host the British Grand Prix until 2026, but while it remains one of the best attended events on the calendar, it has struggled to make profits and the BRDC feels it cannot risk its asset for another ten years.
With this in mind, Grant proposes that the BRDC activates a 'break clause' that would see it host the event for the final time in 2019. A firm decision will be made prior to this year's July round.
“We have to protect our Club against the potentially ruinous risk of a couple of bad years without some change in the economic equation, the risk and return are out of kilter we are exploring various ways in which this might be altered.
“Among other alternatives, the Board is considering whether we should give notice before the 2017 BGP (as required) of our intention to exercise the break clause in the BGP contract at the end of 2019,” part of the letter reads. "This is not a simple decision, and we will consider fully all the implications before coming to a conclusion by mid-year."
The letter does, however, suggest the arrival of Liberty Media could allow for a more seismic shift in the profitability of hosting F1 events, giving Silverstone hope that a more affordable solution can be reached.
“We see the arrival of Liberty Media as having the potential to bring changes which could enhance F1 in a number of ways and, over time, could maybe lead to a more equitable balance for promoters such as ourselves. We expect the BRDC and Silverstone to play an active role in how this develops over the coming months.”
With 140,000 spectators in 2016, the British Grand Prix has performed well in terms of numbers but struggled to make ends meet, with the issues over the current situation suggesting that it cannot afford to attract any fewer fans than it has been doing – despite the healthy numbers – but needs to attract more.
Contract wrangles between Ecclestone and BRDC have been frequent over the years. The event was nearly moved to Donington Park in 2009, but when that effort fell through Silverstone signed a new 17 year deal until 2026.
ITV Business Editor Joel Hills, who broke the story, has since tweeted that Ecclestone is unaware of any issues with Silverstone and insists he won't stop them if they break their contract.
Silverstone isn't the only event to signal difficulties in maintaining contracts with FOM. Malaysia is set to drop its event after 2018, while Singapore could axe its round after this year's event. Additionally, Germany has dropped off the calendar and Brazil remains uncertain, though France will return in 2018 at Paul Ricard.
Latest Tweets from Crash.net & GPF1rst