Silverstone’s owner, the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC), says it is serious about the possibility of activating a break clause to drop the British Grand Prix.
The clause allows Silverstone to end its deal to host the British GP at the end of 2019 – but Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone needs to be informed about the plan ahead of this year’s race.
The presence of the clause has been known for some time, but it has now emerged that the excessive cost of holding the annual F1 race is making the threat of the break clause being activated very real.
In a letter to members from BRDC chairman John Grant that was sent before Christmas, and has been leaked to ITV, he says the circuit has become increasingly worried about the financial implications of holding an F1 race.
“Your board would like to preserve the BGP at Silverstone for many years to come, but only if it makes sense to do so,” he wrote. “And 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, and so 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. This is not a simple decision, and we will consider fully all the implications before coming to a conclusion by mid-year.”
A 17-year deal to host the British GP was signed by Silverstone in 2009, but the rising costs of a 5 percent escalator that forms a part of many of Ecclestone’s race deals has given the track second thoughts.
BRDC president Derek Warwick told Motorsport.com’s sister site Autosport last year that the escalator had pushed the circuit over the edge.
“At the end of the day, if you can't afford it, you can't afford it,” he said. “We've supported the British Grand Prix now for many years without any kind of third party support or government support.
“We've spent over £50million building the Wing, changing the circuit, and doing everything Bernie wanted in order to secure the grand prix.
“But now we are in a situation where the escalator [clause] has become too expensive for us.”
Ecclestone did not seem too concerned about the situation, and said other tracks had contacted him to discuss the idea of replacing Silverstone.
“If they want to activate a break clause, there is nothing we can do,” he told ITV.
“Two other tracks have contacted us and we are keen to keep a British Grand Prix, there is no doubt about it, we want to have one. As far as Silverstone is concerned, it's not in our hands.”