Green light for British GP at Silverstone

The Silverstone Circuits Limited and Formula One rights holder Bernie Ecclestone today announced they have reached a 17-year agreement which secures the British Grand Prix from 2010 onwards. The oldest race in Formula One history will retain its place on the calendar after months of speculations and uncertainty. The circuit owners, the British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC), today confirmed the agreement at a buzzing news conference in London.

Damon Hill, chairman of the BRDC.
Photo by Dave Dyer.

According to British media, the deal is worth ?11m a year, with an immediate ?40m injection ahead of the 2010 Grand Prix. In total, until 2026, the new agreement is believed to be worth ?300m. The agreement also has a break clause after ten years, and both parties have the right to back out of the deal. It is also understood that FOM and Ecclestone have decreased their financial demands, Silverstone had to pay a ?12 million annual fee to host the race, with an annual rise of 7 percent. The rise is now been cut down to 5 percent per year. The deal originally involved ?370 million to host the race up to 2026, and it is now cut back to ?300m.

The Silverstone circuit lost the rights to host the British Grand Prix to the Donington Circuit in 2008, when Ecclestone signed a similar 17-year deal with the Donington circuit. However, the company which operates the Donington track, Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd, owned by Simon Gillett, wasn't able to find the necessary funds, and in October this year Ecclestone, after Donington failed to meet yet another deadline, decided to start negotiations with the BRDC again.

The relationship between the BRDC and Ecclestone was severely strained after Eccestone had in the past criticized the facilities of the circuit. But it seems the war is now over and today both BRDC chairman and former Formula One Champion Damon Hill and Silverstone's managing director Richard Phillips stated that the relation with FOM has now been improved, describing it as "Peace in our time".

Phillips also revealed that in the past the circuit only had signed 5-year deals, and together with the high circuit fees, this was the reason why it was very difficult, if not impossible, to invest money in upgrading the Northamptonshire circuit, a former British Air Force World War Two airfield, to contemporary Formula One standards. Phillips believes the circuit has now struck a deal that also delivers the money, they can now keep a certain percentage of the ticket sales, and plan to invest the money in developing the circuit.

Phillips: "A 17-year agreement gives us the ability to invest and move forward. We've now got to sell a lot of tickets, to get out there and do similar sorts of numbers as we did this year when we had 230,000 people there over the three days, and promote the event."

Damon Hill: "The title of Silverstone as home of motor sport has come true. It is a place for all motor sport. Everyone in the BRDC loves motor sport and we are looking forward to the MotoGP as well as the British Grand Prix." Hill also stated at the press conference the Silversone circuit will start work on a new pit lane and paddock area after Christmas this year, and expects the works to be completed before the 2011 British Grand Prix.

So it seems the waiting about the future of the British Grand Prix has finally paid off, and the circuit has now struck a deal with FOM that costs them ?70 million less. A similar agreement was signed between FOM and the promoters of the Grand Prix of Canada erlier this month, they also got, after long and tedious negotiations, a multi million dollar discount. It seems FOM and Ecclestone finally realized that the circuit fees were way to high, and decided to give in, rather than to give up.

The date for the 2010 British Grand Prix is set for July 11, and it is expected the FIA will at the end of this week publish the final 2010 Formula One calendar.