If Silverstone Can't the Host British Grand Prix, Who Can?
Silverstone is on the ropes—what track can succeed it if it's unable to host?
For years, the escalating hosting fees faced by Silverstone International Circuit have called the venue's future hosting of Formula One's British Grand Prix into doubt. As predicted by Independent in 2011, the British Racing Drivers' Club, the circuit's owners, have found profiting off the race difficult, despite having one of the highest annual attendances of any Formula One race. All this is happening amidst a projected continuation of the rise in ticket prices, and yet, the circuit's owners still struggle to turn a profit.
Andrew Benson of the BBC now alleges that the circuit's owners have had enough and are now considering an early termination of their exclusivity contract, which is not set to expire until after 2027. Though the hosting costs are dwarfed by some other countries' fees, there is no government assistance for Silverstone.
If Silverstone does indeed drop the British Grand Prix, where does the race go? The value of the British event to Liberty Media is unquestionable, but unless the upward climb of hosting fees is either capped or reversed, Silverstone will want out. Who does that leave, then, that is capable of hosting the British Grand Prix?
Formula One is run exclusively on circuits that meet FIA Grade 1 standards, which, though the requirements for a grade 1 circuit are not known to the public, are thought to differ from grade 2 based on runoff areas and the quality of facilities. A current list of FIA graded circuits can be found here. At present, there is but one circuit that meets grade 1 in Great Britain— Silverstone. There are, however, two alternatives that meet grade 2 standards: Brands Hatch, and Donington Park, both of which have hosted Formula One in their past.
As neither park would meet the appropriate standards for modern Formula One, renovation would be needed, but the funding for such renovations would be difficult to acquire. The British government is not keen on supporting the British Grand Prix, as evidenced by their lack of assistance for Silverstone's event, so any funding for these upgrades would have to come from the pockets of private parties, in the form of loans, not unlike those taken about by the BRDC to renovate Silverstone's paddock, with construction finished in 2011. With plenty of time remaining for both Donington Park and Brands Hatch to prepare for Silverstone to step down, they may want to start making calls if Silverstone's situation worsens further.
The British Grand Prix is not something Liberty Media will want to lose. Any and all potential hosts for the event should be poised to cut a deal when Silverstone makes up its mind.