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.”