Preview the 2017 British Grand Prix, potentially one of the last.
With year-on-year losses continuing to mount, Silverstone & the BRDC have formally triggered their break clause to host the British Grand Prix. Giving the race just two more years of certainty, and placing pressure on Liberty Media to keep one of F1’s key Grand Prix. A race taking place this weekend, with home favourite Lewis Hamilton falling further back to title rival Vettel after a podium-less Austrian GP.
Silverstone reported net losses across the two previous Grand Prix amounting to £7.6 million. And with further losses expected in 2017, opted to activate the break clause in their contract to host the British round of the Formula One world championship.
It’s a situation board members of the BRDC, the owners of the Silverstone circuit, had aimed to avoid and remain keen to continue hosting the race beyond 2019. But in order to do so, require F1’s new owners in Liberty Media helping their situation by renegotiating the terms of the deal they signed in 2009 with ex-F1 supremo, Bernie Ecclestone.
In a statement issued by Silverstone and the BRDC on Tuesday 11, John Grant, Chairman of the British Racing Drivers’ Club, 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 sustained losses of £2.8m in 2015 and £4.8m in 2016, and we expect to lose a similar amount this year. We have reached the tipping point where we can no longer let our passion for the sport rule our heads.
“It would not only risk the very future of Silverstone and the BRDC, but also the British motorsport community that depends on us.
“However, I want to be clear that although we have now activated the break clause, we are fully supportive of the changes the Liberty team are making to improve the F1 experience. Our hope is 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.”
One issue that the BRDC has found with the deal they signed to host the British Grand Prix is the year-on-year 5% increase in their hosting fee. Moving the cost to have the privilege to home the race from £11.5 million in 2010 to £16.2 million in 2017. While had Silverstone not activated the break clause, the end-point of their contract in 2026 would have seen the fee reach £25m.
Another issue faced by Silverstone is that the net revenue generated from ticket sales and hospitality at the British Grand Prix is not enough to cover the Grand Prix’s share of Silverstone’s overhead costs.
Now, where does this leave Liberty Media?
Previously, the new owners of F1 have described the British Grand Prix as one of the jewels in the sports’ crown. A key race on the calendar, thanks to its strong attendance against other races on the calendar and it’s ever-presence on the F1 schedule.
An issue, however, is that should Liberty Media give Silverstone a break and re-negotiate the terms of the contract to ease the BRDC’s struggles other circuits may look to do the same, too. Taking money out of Liberty’s hands, and the profits its shareholders believed were guaranteed when they bought the sport.
It’s also not just the races already on the calendar that may also look for a break – something Singapore appeared to be looking at when Liberty first became involved in the sport ahead of purchasing it – but also races not even on the calendar. Potential future destinations to further grow the sport and give Liberty the ‘SuperBowl’ experiences they desire and seek to give fans.
One experience that Liberty has been bringing so far to F1 is the two-seater Formula One experience where fans can be driven around the circuit in a modified two-seater race car. On top of that, other on track demonstrations are planned – leading to Silverstone’s Grand Prix weekend becoming a four-day weekend of racing, with practice for F2 and GP3 pushed back to Thursday.
Pushing the action back a day, though, presented some challenges itself. With fans who had already purchased their tickets forced to either miss out on some of their previously guaranteed sessions. Or find an alternative solution to arrive at the circuit earlier than first planned.
Away from the support races, the main event of the weekend will be the British Grand Prix – which remains unchanged in the schedule and will be contested across the usual Friday, Saturday, Sunday running order.
Seeing the home crowd’s favourite, Lewis Hamilton, chase yet another pole on Saturday to move within one of the all-time record holder, Michael Schumacher. Missing out on the chance to match the legendary German after a gearbox penalty in Austria – and only finishing qualifying in third – meant he could not secure pole in Speilberg.
With Hamilton out of the running, the pole fight came down to Bottas and Vettel. Seeing the Finn at the hands of the Silver Arrow narrowly edge Vettel to P1 after the Ferrari pilot nosed ahead through his flying lap, only to lose time through the final bends.
From pole, Bottas then leapt off the line so quick Vettel and podium-finisher Daniel Ricciardo both felt the Finn had jumped the gun. Only to be later told that Bottas’ near-jump start was not a jump start as he reacted to the lights within 0.2 seconds – just outside the FIA’s jump start window – and his wheels moving before the lights fading did not class as an anticipated start due to the FIA’s announced tolerance period.
Finishing third in qualifying, and with a five-place grid penalty, Hamilton was left chasing Vettel once more as he looks to reduce the German’s stronghold on the championship having won the opening round back in March at the Australian Grand Prix.
Valtteri’s maiden victory in Sochi came as the Finn edged the Ferrari of Vettel across the line by a margin of just 0.617 seconds. A slender margin ever decreasing in the late stages as Vettel charged in a bid to pip Bottas of that maiden win.
The same situation then unfolded in Austria as Bottas lead the way as Vettel chased him down in the closing laps. Only to cross the line 0.658 seconds behind – a wider margin to the narrow finish in Sochi.
With win number 2 now under his belt, Bottas strongly believes he is now in the title-fight alongside Vettel and his team-mate, too. Making it a four-way fight if you go along with Ricciardo in believing the Red Bull driver has a chance at the title, despite Red Bull’s deficit to Mercedes and Ferrari.
The deficit, however, has not stopped Ricciardo from finishing on the podium in each of the last five rounds. Including victory in Azerbaijan after Vettel’s 10-second stop/go penalty and Hamilton’s head-rest misfortunate eliminated the leading duo from the front of the field.
Come Silverstone, Bottas and Ricciardo can both carry good feelings in the prior fortunes of their teams. With Mercedes and Red Bull both numerously victorious at Silverstone, and Bottas even a leading figure for Williams at the 2015 Grand Prix after snatching second from Hamilton to follow Massa once the safety car peeled in.
The layout at Silverstone remains unchanged once more following the redevelopment undertaken back in 2010 – one of the causes of the BRDC’s financial difficulties. Bringing in the addition of the village complex leading onto the Wellington Straight, along with the now famous Silverstone Wing.
The Maggotts, Becketts complex that makes Silverstone one of the most demanding tracks on Formula One cars, for its high-speed turns, is joined by other demanding corners such as turn one and nine. Corners that will only be more of a spectacle in 2017 with the aero-heavy regulation changes brought in.
Turn one (or Abbey) particularly tends to be a great spectacle at the start of the race as the drivers attack the right-hander before sweeping into the newest parts of the track. While at turn nine (or Copse) drivers aim to carry in as much speed through the old turn one as possible, breaking late and sweeping in as close to the barrier as possible.
For Formula One fans in Britain unable to attend their home Grand Prix in person, the action will once again be broadcasted on both Sky Sports F1 and Channel 4, with both channels providing bumper coverage of the race, qualifying and practice.
Sky Sports F1
12/07 – 18:00 – London Live (also Sky Sports 1 and Mix)
12/07 – 21:00 – F1 Report: Preview
13/07 – 15:00 – Driver Press Conference
13/07 – 15:30 – F2 Practice
13/07 – 18:30 – The F1 Show
13/07 – 20:45 – Paddock Uncut
14/07 – 08:45 – Practice 1 (also Sky Sports 1)
14/07 – 12:45 – Practice 2 (also Sky Sports 1)
14/07 – 15:15 – F2 Qualifying
14/07 – 16:05 – GP3 Qualifying
14/07 – 16:35 – Team Press Conference
14/07 – 17:50 – The F1 Show
15/07 – 09:45 – Practice 3
15/07 – 12:00 – Qualifying
15/07 – 14:55 – F2 Feature Race
15/07 – 16:25 – GP3 Race 1
16/07 – 08:10 – GP3 Race 2
16/07 – 09:20 – F2 Spring Race
16/07 – 11:30 – Race (also Sky Sports 1)
=> 11:30 – Track Parade
=> 12:00 – Pit Lane Live
=> 12:30 – Race
=> 15:30 – Paddock Live
19/07 – 20:30 – F1 Report: Review
Channel 4 F1
14/07 – 08:55 – Practice 1
14/07 – 12:55 – Practice 2
15/07 – 09:55 – Practice 3
15/07 – 11:25 – F1 Meets… Nigel Mansell
15/07 – 11:55 – Qualifying
16/07 – 12:00 – Race
=> 12:00 – Build–Up
=> 12:35 – Race
=> 15:10 – Reaction
BBC Radio F1
13/07 – 21:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
15/07 – 13:00 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live)
16/07 – 13:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)