What’s next: the British Grand Prix

Along with Italian Grand Prix, the British Grand Prix is the oldest continuously staged Formula One Grand Prix.

Along with Italian Grand Prix, the British Grand Prix is the oldest continuously staged Formula One Grand Prix.

Built on the site of a World War II Royal Air Force bomber station, RAF Silverstone, the race course environs are home, in full or in part, to seven of the teams. The land around Silverstone has been dubbed as Britain’s Motorsport Valley, and the sport’s commercial rights holder, Formula One Management (FOM), is based in London.

The annual race hosting fee over the current 17-year contract, signed in 2009, averages out at around UK£17 million per year, which must be added to the not insubstantial costs of staging an event which last year drew around 140,000 spectators on race day. Ticketing and concessions are the only major revenue streams for the venue around the Grand Prix, with large swatches of trackside advertising and hospitality swallowed up by Formula One’s central rights holder. The Grand Prix takings represent around half of Silverstone’s annual turnover.

After a dispute between Silverstone's owners, the British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC), and the Formula One authorities back in 2003, the Northampton circuit has enjoyed a phoenix-like return to former glories, helped greatly by prolific British World Champion Lewis Hamilton.

The 140,000 race-day fans cheered on Hamilton to win his home Grand Prix in 2015; but the Grand Prix weekend was the best-attended three-day sporting event on the British calendar, attracting a record crowd of over 350,000.

“I think it still attracts a lot of people, who stand on the banks and sometimes in the rain. The whole facilities are much better there – the organisation is much better, they spent a lot of money on it, the BRDC, they have created something,” suggests Nigel Geach. “They still get the fans. They still support the home guys, the likes of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton. I think David Coulthard in the old days and Damon Hill have made Silverstone what it is.”

As of April this year, British automotive firm Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) was on the verge of acquiring a 249-year lease on the circuit from the BRDC for a fee of around UK£33 million, to be paid in instalments. The company intends to make Silverstone its UK company HQ, with plans to develop a museum, heritage centre, and hotel. It would also operate the track on behalf of the BRDC. But, assuming the deal goes through, the plans are thought unlikely to come to fruition before 2020.

The BRDC has owned Silverstone since 1971 and has often struggled to meet the high costs of hosting a Formula One race. Contrary to many other Formula One venues, Silverstone doesn't receive any state funding so a deal with JLR could prove its saving grace.

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