Silverstone formally triggers break clause in F1 contract

The owners of Silverstone, the British Racing Drivers Club (BRDC) have formally activated the break clause in its Formula 1 contract, meaning the British Grand Prix is set to drop off the calendar from 2019. 

The BRDC has come to the conclusion, that with its current contract, the event is financially unviable and potentially ruinous, and have opted to bring an early end to the 17-year contract that came into effect in 2010. 

This contract, signed with Bernie Ecclestone, included an annual 5% 'escalot fee' which meant that the BRDC would have to pay an extra 5% per year, to host the Grand Prix. 

In 2010, the first year of the new deal, the cost of hosting the race was £11.5 millon, which over the course of the contract would rise to £27 million by the end of the contract.

It is hoped that when F1's new owners, Liberty Media, experience their first F1 Grand Prix at SIlverstone this coming weekend, that they see how important the Northamptonshire circuit is to F1 and open talks to renegotiate the deal, to more viable terms. 

"We have reached the tipping point"

In a statement, BRDC chairman, John Grant said: "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. 

"We have reached the tipping point where we can no longer let our passion for the sport rule our heads.

"We sustained loses of £2.8 million in 2015 and £4.8 million in 2016, and expect to lose a similiar amount this year."

New F1 boss, Chase Carey has confirmed his desire to "keep a British GP" on the calendar in the past, but made no direct reference to Silverstone.

Chase Carey (C) and Sean Bratches (R) will experience their first British GP this weekend, while Ross Brawn (L) returns to Silverstone. (Image Credit; Dan Isitene/Getty Images)
Chase Carey (C) and Sean Bratches (R) will experience their first British GP this weekend, while Ross Brawn (L) returns to Silverstone. (Image Credit; Dan Isitene/Getty Images)

Despite triggering the contract, Grant remains confident 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."

Is this the end for the British GP?

Liberty Media know that an F1 season without the British Grand Prix is unthinkable for many, and seeing as there is just £5 million that is the sticking point, the adult and mature thing is to try and renegtionate the deal. 

Seven of the 10 teams are based in the UK, and UK motorsport depends on it's showcase event to promote itself. 

Of course, we have been here before, in particular under the Ecclestone era, but a deal was reached when he threatened to take the race to Donington Park. 

As usual, Silverstone will put on a magnificent show this weekend, and if Carey and F1 commerical chief, Sean Bratches, sees just how vital the race is at Silverstone, then that could encourage talks to start. 

If the race does leave SIlverstone, then there are no other tracks in the UK, at the present time, which are Grade 1 FIA status, without which a Grand Prix can not be held. 

The long muted London GP could step in, but making this a yearly event is unlikely, although a change in the law in April means that it is now possible ot freely organise motorsport events on public roads in the UK. 

Chances are a new, more favourable contract will be reached, but Liberty are caught between a rock and a hard place.

If they renegtionate the deal with the BRDC, then other circuit owners and promoters will probably use the same tactics, but the British GP, along with the Italian GP, are the only two to have featured in every F1 season. 

Silverstone held the first ever Grand Prix in 1950, Ferrari took it's first F1 win there in 1951. It is one highlight of the British sporting summer, it is unthinkable to have an F1 season without a trip to where it all began, but then again that was said about the French and German Grand Prix, and look what happened to them...