British Grand Prix future uncertain beyond 2019 as Silverstone activates break clause
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|Dates: 14-16 July Venue: Silverstone|
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The future of the British Grand Prix has been left uncertain after Silverstone's owner confirmed it has activated a break clause to cease hosting the race after 2019.
Silverstone has been home to the race every year since 1987.
However, the British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC), which owns the circuit, says it cannot afford to host the race unless a new deal is agreed.
"We have reached the tipping point," said BRDC chairman John Grant.
"We can no longer let our passion for the sport rule our heads. We sustained losses of £2.8m in 2015 and £4.8m in 2016, and we expect to lose a similar amount this year.
"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."
Silverstone hosted the first Formula 1 race in 1950. It then shared hosting the British Grand Prix with Brands Hatch and Aintree before becoming its permanent home 30 years ago.
Unlike many other tracks on the F1 calendar, Silverstone receives no government backing.
Announcement timing questioned
Formula 1 owner Liberty Media said it regrets the BRDC's decision and its timing.
"The week leading up to the British Grand Prix should be a week of great celebration for F1 and Silverstone," a spokesman said.
"We deeply regret Silverstone has chosen instead to use this week to posture and position themselves and invoke a break clause that will take effect in three years' time.
"Our focus is still to preserve the British Grand Prix. We will carry on negotiating with the promoter in good faith and in private to reach a fair and equitable solution."
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Analysis - is this the end of the British GP?
BBC Sport's chief F1 writer Andrew Benson:
Silverstone's decision to end its contract to hold the British Grand Prix after 2019 does not necessarily mean there will not be a British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 2020 and beyond.
If that sounds confusing, bear with me.
Silverstone signed a 17-year contract with former Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone back in 2009 that meant it had to pay £12m for the race in 2010. But the deal had a 5% annual escalator built into it, and a break clause after 2019.
The fee has now gone up sufficiently that Silverstone cannot continue to hold the race and break even, let alone make a profit. So it felt it had no choice but to exercise the get-out clause, which contractually needed to be done before this year's race.
But Silverstone still wants the British Grand Prix after that date, and Formula 1 still wants one, too. The rub, of course, is that the race does not necessarily have to be held at Silverstone.
F1's new chairman Chase Carey told BBC Sport this week that it is his "priority" for the event to stay at Silverstone but that there was "interest from other places, other UK options, that would have appeal".
It's not clear what these are, plural. But one of them is a much-rumoured potential street race somewhere in the east of London. Whether that is realistic is a different question.
For Silverstone to continue as host, F1 and the BRDC now have two years or so to try to hammer out a mutually satisfactory deal.
Realistically, this is the most likely option. But as Carey put it: "We are not there today."
Silverstone history 'shouldn't be thrown away'
Former world champion Nigel Mansell, who claimed three of his four British GP wins at Silverstone, believes it would be "a very sad day" if the circuit no longer hosted grand prix racing.
"Silverstone has the history of F1," the Briton told BBC Sport.
"They deserve to have the recognition for the historical value the circuit has, which has contributed to some incredible races.
"Hopefully the new F1 owners will review their thoughts and think there is a better value to that than throw it away."