David Richards

Richards warns losing British GP would be “a significant threat” to British motorsport

2018 F1 season

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The new chairman of Britain’s Motor Sport Association says it will strive to keep the British Grand Prix on the calendar after 2019.

David Richards, whose is also chairman and founder of Prodrive, discussed the important of the Silverstone race in the Motorsport Safety Fund’s annual Watkins Lecture at the Autosport International show today.

The race is organised by the British Racing Drivers Club, which last year announced it had activated a break clause in its contract which will come into effect after next year’s grand prix.

“The rationale behind this decision was very clear for the BRDC, who’ve been losing money running the grand prix for many years and faced a steep annual rise in fees to host the race,” said Richards.

“Notwithstanding that, the British Grand Prix has been on the Formula One calendar since the championship first began back in 1950. In a recent fan survey the British event was in the top four iconic Formula One races that fans globally wanted to watch.”

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“It contributed well over £50 million to the UK economy each year through employment and wider economic impact of more than 300,000 visitors to Silverstone over the race weekend. Nearly 4.5 million UK TV viewers tuned in to watch the British Grand Prix last year, so it’s also important to the armchair enthusiast.”

Richards said the MSA intends to help efforts to keep the race on the calendar after next year.

“It’s clear that it would be a significant threat to the position of British motorsport not to have a round of the Formula One world championship in this country. With this in mind the MSA will actively and energetically support discussions to ensure the ongoing inclusion of the British Grand Prix in the Formula One calendar beyond 2019.”

“At this juncture it’s difficult to say how this support may manifest itself, whether it’s lobbying, seeking government intervention or otherwise. However I fully support the importance of this event for UK motorsport and the MSA will do what it can to ensure the grand prix’s long-term future in this country.”

F1 Fanatic understands the British Grand Prix promoter will meet with Formula One Management at the end of January to discuss a way forward. Three potential solutions are under consideration: FOM renting the circuit from Silverstone, a joint venture between the two to host the race or a continuation of the existing arrangement with a reduction of the race fee. The latter scenario, however, is considered unlikely.

FOM will present its plans for the future to all race promoters next week in London with a dinner planned for Tuesday followed by a meeting on Wednesday.

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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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25 comments on “Richards warns losing British GP would be “a significant threat” to British motorsport”

  1. I find it admirable that a private entity would lose so much money for the good of the country.
    I find it despicable that people except them to be this selfless, to be honest.
    Unfortunately for them and many other people, things may change. I don’t want them to, because Silverstone is a great track and has great racing and British motorsport is amazing.

  2. petebaldwin (@)
    12th January 2018, 13:01

    Im pleased to hear F1 is looking at plans to keep the race by potentially renting the track etc… It’d be a big loss.

    1. Indeed, @petebaldwin, let us hope they find a way to make that work.

  3. The sad thing is, I think there’s so much scope to make the British Grand Prix into a much bigger, more inclusive event. As Richards rightly points out, the British motorsports industry is huge, and the British GP is really the fulcrum of the motorsports calendar. Yet really, it’s a fairly exclusively F1-centric event. While I don’t think that’s necessarily unusual, personally I’d rather see it as a celebration of all forms of motorsport in the UK. If the entirety of the motorsport industry is reliant on the GP, then perhaps that industry as a whole can make a contribution.

    The return for the investment would be a well-funded festival of motorsports, where just about every form of domestic motorsport is represented. Imagine a week-long event where there’s always something happening on the track. One of the things I love about Le Mans is that you can really fill an entire week, and so much of the event is massively accessible, with supporting events such as the Great British Welcome car show at St Saturnin, sprouting up around the region. Imagine a sort of Glastonbury of motorsport, with F1 headlining on the main stage, but with great support acts, both old and new. It’s a shame that the old mixed-surface super-special-stage is gone now, but again, why not build a mixed-surface stage which can then showcase all types of loose-surface racing, everything from buggies to WRX, generating interest which could beef up attendance at events throughout the year.

    I appreciate this is a pipe dream. The biggest hurdle would be the conflicting commercial interests – F1 organisers are unlikely to want to share a platform with sportscar organisers, not to mention the myriad issues of advertising and sponsorship. Plus it would take huge investment and organisation, which frankly nobody is going to plump for no matter how mouth-watering the prospect.

    But perhaps this is the real issue facing the British GP, along with many of its counterparts worldwide. F1 is expensive, exclusive, and ultimately delivers very little for the money by way of spectacle and on-track action. I don’t mean just in the F1 races, but also the support races and the activities around the track.

    Sitting on a rickety piece of scaffolding, coat held tight against the wind as you’re squeezed into a space barely big enough for a child, squinting at the cars you can just about see in the distance (while on the other side of the track an amazing piece of architecture hosts celebrities and millionaires glugging champagne and posing for photos, barely even aware that a race is taking place), you can’t help but get the sense that F1 doesn’t really want you to be there. The experience is being shared with you grudgingly, with the minimum amount of entertainment and comfort being provided for the maximum profit.

    When you go to something like Le Mans or Goodwood, the feeling is totally different – it’s a show that’s being put on for your benefit, and the organisers want you to enjoy yourself and come back again. Hopefully Richards, and the folk at Liberty, get this. Hopefully they want F1 fans to go to the circuit and have a good time, going home feeling entertained and excited to go again. It’s easy to think of cost as being the barrier for attendance, but really it’s more about value. For too long F1 has boiled down to a calculation on the minimum amount of value it can deliver and still continue to operate.

    1. Sitting on a rickety piece of scaffolding, coat held tight against the wind as you’re squeezed into a space barely big enough for a child, squinting at the cars you can just about see in the distance (while on the other side of the track an amazing piece of architecture hosts celebrities and millionaires glugging champagne and posing for photos, barely even aware that a race is taking place), you can’t help but get the sense that F1 doesn’t really want you to be there.

      COTD. Basically everything that is wrong with the F1 fan experience summed up.

      1. petebaldwin (@)
        12th January 2018, 14:21

        Yeah i was going to comment on the same part. Very good explanation of what attending a race feels like for a Non-celeb/rich F1 fan.

        I haven’t been since Liberty took over but my main memories of F1 races is being constantly moved around by security and being told “you can’t go there, you don’t have right pass.

        The last time I went was quali at Spa a few years ago and I watched all the support stuff from a good spot i found. Minutes before the F1 session started, security walked over, told about 30 of us we had to move and then ushered in 2 or 3 some rich looking people to stand in my place.

        I’ve not had any desire to go and watch F1 live since.

        1. @petebaldwin That has never happened to me so far even though I’m a ”non-celeb/rich F1 fan.” So far, I’ve attended three races and never even once have I being moved around by the security and being told ”you can’t go there, you don’t have right pass.”

      2. I mean it’s a testament to the British motorsports fan that, in spite of this miserable rip-off of an experience, the British GP continues to sell out year after year. There again, it’s all relative – compared to standing shivering in the middle of the Welsh countryside as water pools around your feet, just for a two second glimpse of a WRC car, followed by half an hour of picking gravel out of your eyes, attending a GP is a positive luxury.

        Point being, while motorsports are global in nature (and pausing to acknowledge my own bias as a Brit), I think on some level you have to think of Britain as the home of motorsports. The vast majority of F1 teams are based here, and through all of the lower ranks of just about every discipline of racing, experience on the British scene is seen as a requisite. Britain has the biggest talent pool, and it has the greatest number of opportunities. Not just for drivers, but for engineers, mechanics, designers, and just about every other job in the industry. The British motorsports industry deserves a centrally-located, annual celebration of its history, its prowess, and its standing in the world. And the British GP should rightly be at the heart of that.

        Bottom line; if the premiere motorsports event, in the home of mostorsports worldwide, can sell out tickets every year and still loses money, then there’s something really fundamentally wrong. The business model there is broken.

    2. @mazdachris In-line with the rest of the European F1 Season the British GP sees open wheel motorsport action on the track throughout a race weekend, with practice sessions, qualifying & six races across four different series; Porsche Supercup / GP3 / F2 & F1. Plus historic GP cars whizzing round with a Typhoon demonstration Saturday and the Red Arrows Sunday – it does feel like a festival…

      Personally I feel the British GP represents reasonable value for money compared to other contemporary, premier Live events (2017 FoS tickets were £100 each for General Admission on the Sunday) – there is rarely a dull moment on track. If you have no interest in the F1 feeder series or other categories then, yes the weekend would be expensive.

      However I do think accessibility should be improved and value-for-money family tickets offered.

    3. I’ve only ever attended the Montreal Grand Prix, about 10 times in all. First time was 1996, silver grandstand 24 on the outside of the hairpin… the cars were literally within spitting distance — and my beer was getting a tiny sprinkle of blacks specs which I soon realized was rubber flying off of the tyres… (delicious!) Most often I had silver grandstand seats, but have also attended 3-days general admission (2004), and 2-days in the Mercedes Elite Loge (2014). Last time I attended was 2015 and only on the Friday (and only thanks to the generosity of a fellow F1Fanatic site member who sent me a ticket that would have gone unused otherwise!) — there were terrible rain showers with no running except Lewis who crashed without completing a lap… at least I got to see & hear one car in person that year.
      Maybe recent years have had fewer support races, but there are great battles that go on in those. The pit area for the support races, including the historic F1s on the years they are part of the program. I remember a fascinating conversation with the owner of a FW08 Williams (I could be wrong about exact model) — my friends dragged me away after standing around for 20 minutes. There are dozens of merchandise booths all around for your shopping pleasure as well as other “forms of entertainment” such pit-stop-challenge and DJ spinning music.
      The worst part of the weekend is at the end of the day on Sunday having to deal with 100,000 strong crowd leaving the circuit practically through the one subway station.
      My only regret is the years I did not attend.

      I think the Montreal race is not only #2 as far as quality racing goes, but #1 as far as on-site experience. I haven’t even mentioned brought up the city of Montreal and how all locals, regardless being a real F1 fan or not, typically use the F1 weekend as signal to the start of summer. There F1-related street fairs in several locations in town that start earlier in the week.

  4. Well, it makes sense to advice your own product. But so will everybody else. Fact is that there is a global market. The product will survive not having an event in one particular country. And maybe in due time it will return.

  5. The Brita triggered Need it and the world moved on. The same will happen without the race. Plenty of races to go around.

    1. The who did what now?

  6. Is it “Silverstone GP under threat” time again already!?

    1. Helmut Markko must be co-owner.

  7. When the cost of watching F1 is over £200 for a ticket (with a grandstand seat) and the cost of watching a WEC race is only in the region of £50 (including a seat on any grandstand) then there is something wrong with the cost of running a race.

    It’s bad enough that in order to watch a full race weekend on television is restricted to Sky and even then flooded with adverts (except the race)… Liberty must re-evaluate all the surrounding costs of F1 to bring it back to the fans, rather than to price it away from all…

  8. Just to add further, the current cost to watch the Silverstone F1 from the Pit Straight grandstand is over £450 (just for race day), even just to gain entry to watch the race from a spectator bank is £165 (just for race day).

  9. I love Formula 1 and I think the British GP is one of the most important races. But if it has to go because it isn’t profitable then so be it.

    I’m going to the Hungarian GP this year. Flight, hotel and ticket come to about the same price as a weekend ticket for Silverstone. In that case, I’m taking money to their economy as a tourist. British citizens who assume make up the bulk of the attendance for Silverstone, going to the GP aren’t adding anything to our economy, that money is already in this country and if not spent on the GP will be spent on something else, it’s not the same as a race which draws a large international crowd.

    Public money should be going nowhere near such an opulent event where millionaires race around in billboards for billionaires to an audience of the middle-classes. It would be disgusting to see an event that only has greed to blame for not being profitable being propped up with tax money so desperately needed elsewhere.

    1. Assuming those brits would spend the money on something uk made instead…

      1. @rethla

        Based on that logic F1 isn’t seeing as most teams belong to foreign corporations and the drivers all live in tax havens so that ticket money leaves the UK anyways.

        1. @philipgb
          The ticket money isnt whats keeping f1 or any motorsport alive.

          1. @rethla

            That’s nothing to do with my original point.

            I’m saying that the British GP isn’t a contributor to the economy because it’s British people spending their money in Britain as they still would with no GP.

            You followed with the statement ‘assuming they would spend it on something UK made instead’ which I’m saying doesn’t matter because the money for the British GP still goes towards a race fee that leaves the UK and merchandise for teams that also funnel the money out of the UK.

  10. How the hell is Silverstone non-profitable? One of the highest attended circuits along with one of the average highest ticket prices over the weekend. I shudder to think of the income for vendors alone over the weekend knowing what some of the smaller one’s are charged. Poorly managed, exaggerated/over-inflated costs to maximes investor returns? Tax payers should not have to fork out to further add to returns even if some countries do require this simply to hold the event.

  11. Take the money off the Arabs to fund Silverstone. Bahrain and Abu Dhabi should cover the shortfall for all European tracks. It’s compensation for everyone for those terrible places holding F1 races. Arabs have so much money but somehow are always tacky. Tax the Arabs to feed the European circuits.

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