Cash-strapped Silverstone ‘in discussions with government’

2017 F1 season

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Silverstone is in negotiations with the government about support as it tries to secure the British Grand Prix beyond 2019.

Derek Warwick, the president of the British Racing Drivers Club which owns the track, revealed talks have also been held with F1’s incoming owners Liberty Media.

“We’ve had meetings with Liberty and Chase Carey, he understands our dilemma, we understand that he still has to make money because that’s what his guys are doing,” Warwick explained at the Autosport International show.

“But I just feel that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. I think we will have a grand prix past 2019. We are talking to government, it’s not widely known, but we are talking to government to see if there’s any help here. I’m not really sure.”

“He had nothing to talk about so he picked on Silverstone”
“And even Bernie [Ecclestone] now is calling us and saying let’s set up a meeting and talk about it. We’re feeling very positive at the minute.”

Warwick ascribed recent stories about Silverstone’s F1 future to Ecclestone having “nothing to talk about so he picked on Silverstone”.

“We made a note to our members, our Christmas note giving them an update on Silverstone, and a lot of that came out as we were going to the possibility of [using] the break clause before the grand prix this year to break the clause for 2019.”

“Don’t worry, we’ve 100% got a grand prix for the next three years, up until 2019. But I’ve just got a feeling that we can’t do without the British Grand Prix, we can’t do without Silverstone, some compromise will be made either with Bernie or the new people now taking over Formula One which is Liberty.”

Hamilton’s title miss was bad news for Silverstone
Warwick admitted the BRDC is “a bit short of cash” and “would like to resurface the circuit” at a potential cost of up to three million pounds. “We are still looking for something out there.”

“For me personally the second JLR deal which has failed and gone away a few months ago, that hit me hard because I thought that was a nice fit with Jaguar Land Rover and Silverstone. But it didn’t happen, we must move on.”

He also conceded Lewis Hamilton’s failure to win the world championship last year could have an effect on ticket sales for this year’s race.

“It was bit disappointing for me personally that he didn’t win it last year because it really helps the British Grand Prix and the fans,” said Warwick. “But nobody can deny that Nico [Rosberg] [deserved] one.”

“Big shock for everybody when Nico retired, obviously. I can imagine a certain fellow team mate might have been rubbing his hands, wherever he was in the world.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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43 comments on “Cash-strapped Silverstone ‘in discussions with government’”

  1. Not one penny of tax payer money should be spent on this. I love F1 but its a commercial venture; save the taxes for the NHS.

    1. Joe (@jbarber43932)
      13th January 2017, 13:41

      The grand prix actually generates a huge amount of money for the local economy and so could be seen as an investment of public money in the surrounding area.

      I’m of course talking about a subsidy rather than the govt picking up the whole tab.

      1. When I go shopping on the High Street that “generates money for the local economy”; can’t that also be “seen as an investment of public money in the surrounding area”, and therefore Parliament should give me a subsidy, let’s say 20% of my spending?

        1. @Gary Im pretty sure that you would get 20% off from the parliament if you spent the amount F1 does.

      2. The problem I see is because most (or is it all?) F1 races are hidden behind the pay wall in the UK, then Silverstone won’t get the publicity needed for a large crowd, so gate attendance will be less than the break even point. This makes it difficult because with an almost guaranteed loss on the venture then no one will want to invest in the project.

        1. good point @drycrust the government are extremely unlikely to subsidise it when it’s not even on free to air TV.

    2. petebaldwin (@)
      13th January 2017, 14:03

      As a tax payer, I agree. There are massive issues in the UK that need to be tacked including a failing NHS, budgets being slashed everywhere, a housing crisis, a massive loss of money through Brexit and so on. Spending money to make Bernie/Liberty richer is a no go for me.

      F1 is important to Britain but I’d argue that Britain is more important to F1. If they won’t compromise on the price, scrap the race. I’m sure Sky, the sponsors and the teams based in Britain wouldn’t mind…..

      1. Another one to add to the list – the amount of tax being avoided by the extremely rich, many of whom are BRDC members. Asking the tax payers is a bit rich. Ask the non UK tax payers first.

        1. @mrfill I’d be very interested to see your evidence for this claim of “many”.

    3. B-but, millions of pounds are already going to the NHS after the Brexit vote, r-right?

  2. I think this reads like a honest, open interview by a former-races. Well done Warwick, and good luck with getting Silverstone/BRDC sorted.

  3. Why is “deserved” added? There is zero suggestion Warrick implied that or was affirming that Rosberg deserved it. He was just stating the fact that Rosberg won.

    Seems odd to me that writers need to keep trying to force the notion that Rosberg deserved his WDC. It can’t be obvious that he does if it needs constantly stating. Interesting…..

    1. did Warwick say one or won ?
      the writer assumed that he said one, since there’s no denying Nico won – well he did, didn’t he ?
      adding deserved is simply to make the sentence make sence – apologies if English is not your native language

      please get over it ….

    2. Using brackets might mean that the message is simply clarified and (often grammatical) errors made by the speaker are corrected.

  4. Totally agree with @mobeer – there is sooo much money in F1 it staggers me that governments actually *pay* the circus to come to them!

    1. Totally agree. F1 should eat some money and get to the best race locations instead of the going to the places where rich governments and rich princes, kings, etc… write a massive cheque only to have a lame circuit and an equally lame race. Cough cough..Baku cough ..Russia.

  5. Most attendees are British, so that local tourism is still generated by money that’s already in the UK, it will still be here being spent on something else if the race doesn’t happen. It’s not like Melbourne or Singapore that generate international tourism and bring money into their respective countries.

    It already generates a huge amount of money, enough to be profitable already there is no excuse for millionaires to be scrounging public money for their jolly little car race when public services aren’t being fully funded.

  6. F1 holding out the begging bowl for Government money. Governments don’t have any money of their own; they take money from others (tax) and spend it as they will. With the current crisis in the health service, there is obviously liitle or no spare cash lying around.

    Why should UK taxpayers fund F1 when the first thing a succesful British F1 driver does is to leg it to some tax haven?

  7. petebaldwin (@)
    13th January 2017, 14:13

    We all knew this point was coming but we’ve finally reached it. There are races all around the world in countries that have a certain type of leader who will happily pay millions to F1 to advertise their country to the world… They are all paying well over the odds for these races – why else would Azerbaijan get a race!?

    The problem now is that these sums are expected from all tracks but many can’t afford it. Most of Europe, North America and South America have governments unwilling to spend such huge sums every year for little reward.

    So we’ve reached the tipping point – do they get rid of the old tracks in these countries and race only in countries where governments are willing to pay or do they compromise and realise that F1 without Silverstone, Interlagos, Spa, Monza and Montreal is like the Premiership without Man Utd, Man City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham.

    1. That is spot on Pete. This situation has been coming for a long time and it appears as though we’ve finally reached the breaking point. I understand that the business side of F1 is all about making money but I find it absolutely classless the way they’re going about it.

    2. Given that Malaysia and Singapore are getting cold feet too, compromise at some level is likely to be essential, even if the owners don’t think much of the idea.

  8. They signed this 17 year deal in 2009 and insisted on a break clause for 2017 for a reason, either bargaining or as a genuine option for leaving. Frankly, if F1 can live without Germany then it can live without Britain too. If I were Bernie, I’d let them sweat for a while.

    1. Why not let Bernie sweat instead? F1 needs Britain, Mercedes-Benz sell a lot of cars here,and we could easily bring up the subject of the £1million bribe to the labour party.

      1. F1 doesn’t need Britain any more than it needed Germany. 200,000 people go to the GP but they would only watch it on TV if it were in Qatar instead. Regarding car sales, check out the Mercedes Benz website and try to buy an E-Class – they never even bother telling you they’re in F1.

  9. Personally I consider that the Government should support the British GP with some Government Money, although I do also agree with others that F1 Management take far too much money. Motor GP is far more profitable event to put on than F1 and this is all down to Bernie taking too much money. About 3/4 of F1 Teams and industries are based in Britain is this also not the home of Motorsport! The Government should support its industries that perform well such as the ‘British Film Industry’ and ‘Motorsport’ lets have a thriving Motorsport industry, not expect private companies to do it all themselves.

    1. You could use the same argument that F1 should subsidise the British GP because Britain is the home of F1, with the most global fans, who make up the largest group of TV viewers, and I also suspect the largest demographic of fans willing to travel globally to other races. Half the people I met in Melbourne were British.

      So F1 should see it’s for the good of it’s own sport to run the British GP as a loss leader for it’s massively profitable enterprise.

      Not go cap in hand for public money to go into their already overflowing pockets at a time when we don’t even have enough hospital beds for sick children.

      1. The problem with such thinking is that you assume that the money not going to Silverstone will go to the hospital beds for sick children and they won’t.

  10. Parliament should simply reallocate funds from the NHS and care for the elderly, and give those funds to Silverstone so that Silverstone can give those funds to Liberty Media Corporation. I mean seriously, Parliament doesn’t have its priorities straight.

  11. I love F1, and generally speaking I have zero problem with state funds being used to prop up sporting events, but… no.

    Don’t bow to the greedy leeches who run the sport. If it doesn’t work as a commercial event because of the ridiculous fees being demanded, tell them to stick it. It’s the only way they’ll ever learn that track owners/governments/fans are not a bottomless pit from which they can extract more and more money.

    I don’t want my country to lose its Grand Prix, but I’d rather call FOM’s bluff and risk it disappearing than keep giving in to their demands.

  12. In the USA, there is a checkered history of interaction between local, state and national governments and sports. Keeping it in the F1 realm, no doubt Circuit Of The Americas and the USGP would had ended if COTA did not get some taxpayer money from the state of Texas. But that amount has been diminishing with each passing year and now in 2017 with a new Legislature in place, smart bet says they may not get any this year. If the USGP disappeared off the calendar, very few elected officials inside the Capitol building or Austin City Hall would notice despite the event being the biggest single day sporting event in the state. However, if the beloved Dallas Cowboys ever considered leaving the state or present venue for a new location, it would almost qualify as a “disaster-level” emergency inside the Capitol and several city halls in the Dallas/Fort Worth area with politicians willing to shed blood to keep “America’s Team” firmly in Texas.

    1. Did the state chip in on that cowboys stadium?

      1. @thetick I’d hazard a guess that the cowboy’s stadium rakes in far more cash than CotA ever will.

        1. o, no doubt. It’s a bit of a different situation of course. Home sports clubs are really alive in the community. An event like a race, is a lot harder to sell. It just costs money and the benefits are not clear.

      2. No. Local resident taxpayers paid its cost(via municipal bonds, local sales tax, hotel occupancy tax and car rental tax) for a total cost $1.1billion. @psynrg makes the correct point.

  13. So wait- Liberty is as demanding financially as CVC was? I am confused here.

    1. Liberty haven’t officially taken over until the FIA gives the clearance, so we don’t know how they will react yet.

  14. The self interested consumers want the sport to be more extravagant and expensive, and they want cheaper access for themselves.
    Good on F1 for being just as self interested, and standing up as a global championship: Don’t pay up and we will just host the race where we will be get paid.
    Goodbye Britain. Yeah yeah ‘tradition’. Go live in the past already.

  15. Formula One likes being depicted as glitzy and glamourous and with more money than it knows what to do with. It stands of prestige, exclusivity and wealth. So it is confusing when teams are pushed to collapse, citing ‘no money’. Now we have circuits complaining the same thing – ‘no money’. Formula One is like ‘that rich friend’ who likes promoting his or her wealth, but baulks at having to spend £1.

    When you have as much financial profit as Formula One can accrue it honestly baffles me how teams can be let slide to the wall and circuits have to beg their Governments for support. Why? Formula One could invest that money back into the circuits – because without a track the cars aren’t going anywhere. Formula One could invest that money into the teams – because without the teams there won’t be any cars. Or at the very least have fair distribution of prize money. (Which, after explaining that situation to someone who doesn’t watch F1 felt that it was very strange indeed)

    Then again it also goes without saying that no free-to-air TV feed is going to hamper popularity just as much as the frankly eye-watering ticket prices, so to hear they’re still struggling baffles me. Just seems F1 likes being centre stage when it wants to boast about how ‘considerably richer than you’ it is, but when someone needs help it’s as deaf as a post.

    1. Silverstone had to increase its capacity last year to help supply demand (note: it still sold out) and it still didn’t break even due to the fees charged.

  16. I do not want the British Grand Prix to end but even if the UK public finances were in great shape I would not support the Government subsidising the race.

    There is more than enough money in F1, the problem is that Ecclestone is too greedy and always wants every last penny he can squeeze from every single source. Then the money isn’t even reinvested in the sport properly to promote it and enable it to grow, and we have the case that teams at the back are almost guaranteed to always be struggling financially and so never able to properly compete because of the way the money that does stay in the sport is distributed.

    There are some governments out there who are prepared to spend millions to pay for a race just to promote their country and so race fees have gone through the roof for almost every circuit, Monaco being the special case.

    The circuits then aren’t even allowed to make any money from trackside advertising and their only income from the race is from ticket sales, so even though ticket prices are put up as much as they dare hosting a GP is not possible unless the circuit gets state aid or is prepared to make a loss.

    I hope the government does not give any money to secure the Grand Prix and it will be effectively giving money to the billionaire owners of F1.

    If Ecclestone and Liberty are not prepared to lower the fees to s sensible level I would prefer it if Silverstone did activate the break clause and stop hosting the British Grand Prix if it does not make financial sense for the race to continue.

  17. Not one penny of tax payer’s money should be given to the BRDC, and I’d rather lose the British GP than see our taxes used to fund the extortionate hosting fees.
    We’ve already got some of the highest ticket prices in the world, and by 2018 will have to pay the watch anything F1 related thanks to the exclusive deal with SKY, so why should people who can’t afford to attend the race, or even watch on TV be forced to subsidise it for those who can ?
    Either put the prices up and make the fans pay, or let them give the race to another country. I’m sure they can find another dictator to build another crap Tilke track no one wants to go to.

  18. Regarding using UK tax funding to support the race, It is not as simple as saying no, it’s a commercial venture etc…

    Silverstone is a cultural event that helps to shape the UK national identity, something that has been taking a battering in recent years. There is value beyond simple economics to ensuring that events like these can still take place.

    F1 must, and i mean must, not be locked behind a very expensive paywall. It is these daft escalations in TV right payments that are contributing heavily to the demise of this as a spectator sport / activity.

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