© Getty Images

Future of British GP at Silverstone in doubt following leaked BRDC letter

3 Comments

The future of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone is in doubt after a leaked letter suggested that the circuit could stop hosting Formula 1 after 2019.

Silverstone hosted the very first F1 race back in 1950, and has been the permanent home of the British Grand Prix since the early 1990s.

The track usually plays host to a sell-out crowd for the event, with 130,000 fans witnessing Lewis Hamilton’s home victory last July.

However, the Silverstone race is now at risk after John Grant, the chairman of the British Racing Drivers’ Club, wrote to its members regarding the “potentially ruinous cost” of persisting with the F1 race if it continued to make a loss.

Part of Grant’s letter, which was published by ITV News earlier this week, stated that “even in a good year, the BGP [British GP] does not generate enough cash to cover its share of the site overheads”.

Grant revealed that the BRDC board is considering triggering a clause in Silverstone’s F1 contract this year that would allow it to stop hosting the race after 2019.

“Without some change in the economic equation, the risk and return are out of kilter, and so we are exploring various ways in which this might be altered,” Grant wrote.

“Among other alternatives, the board is considering whether we should give notice before the 2017 BGP (as required) of our intention to exercise the break clause in the BGP contract at the end of 2019.

“This is not a simple decision, and we will consider fully all the implications become coming to a conclusion by mid-year.”

Silverstone previously looked set to lose the British Grand Prix after 2009 when Donington Park won the contract to host the race from 2010 onwards.

However, investment in the new race dried up, making the project still-born and ensuring that Silverstone remained the host track for F1.

Should Silverstone stop hosting the race, it is difficult to see which other tracks in the UK could take over commitments for the British Grand Prix.

Former host tracks such as Brands Hatch and, should it decide to take another crack at hosting F1, Donington Park remain highly popular for national events, but may struggle to cope with the scale of a grand prix.

While smaller circuits have successfully joined the F1 calendar in recent years – most notably Austria’s Red Bull Ring – they have done so with significant backing, something that would be more difficult to secure in the UK.

However, F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone remains relaxed about the future of the race, even if he had doubts about Silverstone’s future.

“We don’t want to lose [it] and we are not going to lose Formula 1 in Great Britain,” Ecclestone told ITV News.

“We won’t let them [the fans] down. Maybe there will have to be a year without it, but normally we are going to be alright.

“We don’t want to lose it at Silverstone, for sure. We will have to see exactly what is happening and what the problems are.

“They say they are losing money, but people don’t understand why. The place is full and other countries don’t have such big crowds as we have and don’t have the same problems.

“It’s also a bit of a pity that our government doesn’t help a little bit because the British Grand Prix is good for England, good for business, good for everybody.”

1996 F1 world champion Damon Hill also questioned the lack of government support for the race when talking to Press Association Sport.

“This is a much-loved national event but, for whatever reason, it has always been very difficult to get additional funding from government,” Hill said.

“Maybe now is the time to look at the British Grand Prix in the context of what is happening elsewhere and realise that it is an extremely good shop window for waving our banner and pointing to our brilliance in this field.

“When you think about post-Brexit Britain, you must wonder if this is exactly the type of thing we need to invest in to show off what we can do.”

Fernando Alonso arrives stateside to begin his latest Indy 500 odyssey

Leave a comment

Despite some nervous moments prior to departure for his Arrow McLaren SP team, Fernando Alonso officially is stateside to begin his third attempt at the Indy 500.

Alonso posted a photo Tuesday from his flight to the United States, where he will be through the Aug. 23 race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (1 p.m. ET, NBC).

On Friday, he officially was in the Ruoff Mortgage-emblazoned firesuit he will wear while piloting the No. 66 Dallara-Chevrolet as a teammate to full-time drivers Pato O’Ward and Oliver Askew in the Indianapolis 500.

Travel to the United States has been a hassle for NTT IndyCar Series drivers from abroad. Rookies Alex Palou and Rinus VeeKay both faced some hurdles in arriving in time for the June 6 opener, and Felix Rosenqvist’s girlfriend was stuck in Sweden for a few months (returning the night of his Road America victory) because of COVID-19 red tape.

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown told Motorsport.com last week that Alonso’s travel from his native Spain had been delayed because of restrictions during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Brown described a “nerve-wracking” process in which Alonso had to visit the U.S. embassy in Madrid to get special documents approved.

“It was never a problem; it was more that you can imagine with the state of play right now in America, it’s a bit chaotic,” Brown told Motorsport.com. “To just go through all the government hoops, it was taking some time. But he now has everything that he needs.”

During a July media availability, Arrow McLaren SP managing director Taylor Kiel said the postponement of the Indy 500 from May 24 had provided ample time to adjust with the COVID-19 protocols.

HOW TO WATCH THE INDY 500 ON NBCDetails for the Aug. 23 race

DAILY INDY 500 SCHEDULEClick here for all on-track activity in August at Indy

“His car is prepared along with Pato and Oliver’s in the same manner,” Kiel said. “His team is all full-time employees with Arrow McLaren SP. So they’re involved in all processes and procedures, the car builds, the pit stop practices. In terms of the package at IMS, I’m 100 percent confident.”

Having arrived a week ahead of the track opening with an Aug. 12 practice, Alonso should have the opportunity for simulator time and getting acclimated to the team at its Indianapolis shop. Kiel said Arrow McLaren SP “will do everything we can to get him up to speed. The caveat to all of that is that he has done this before in this car. Obviously with different teams, but he’s got experience. He’s a professional, world-champion caliber driver. If anybody can show up and just drive, it would probably be him.

“So anything we can do beforehand is icing on the cake.”

After failing to qualify with an ill-prepared car last year, Alonso is walking into a situation that’s on par with his rookie attempt in 2017. He led 27 laps for Andretti Autosport before finishing 24th because of an engine failure.

With the youthful tandem of O’Ward (second at Road America; fourth at Iowa) and Askew (third and sixth at Iowa) proving capable of winning — and with new race engineer Craig Hampson — Alonso should have a legitimate shot at a victory to complete motorsports’ “Triple Crown.”

Fernando Alonso won the first two legs in Formula One (the Monaco Grand Prix in 2006-07) and sports cars (the 24 Hours of Le Mans) but needs the Indy 500 to join the legendary Graham Hill as only the second driver to complete the feat.

“I think the Indy 500 is one of the most impressive races, and the Indy 500 completes the big three races in motorsports and three completely different disciplines,” Alonso told Leigh Diffey during a February interview to announce his Arrow McLaren SP deal. “It makes you quite a complete driver. That’s what I’m looking for in this stage of my career. The Indy 500 is probably the biggest priority for me now.”