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Liberty arrival could help save British GP

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Liberty arrival could help save British GP
By:
Jan 10, 2017, 2:40 PM

Liberty Media's arrival as Formula 1's new owners, plus some government support, could be enough to help save the British Grand Prix, claim race chiefs.

Safety car start
The grid before the start of the race
Bernie Ecclestone, President and CEO of Formula One Management on the day it has been announced that Donnington Park will become the host of the British GP in 2010
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB12
Race winner Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid celebrates
Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari SF16-H
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid leads behind the FIA Safety Car
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid
The Red Arrows
Flags for Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1

Silverstone owner, the British Racing Drivers' Club, believes that changes in the running of F1's commercial matters, plus growing calls for some kind of public support, has left it more hopeful about the race's future.

BRDC president Derek Warwick said last September that the race was becoming too expensive for the club to run, and there was a chance it could activate a break clause in its contract that could come into effect after 2019.

A letter to members from BRDC chairman John Grant before Christmas went further and said that the club was seriously considering activating the clause because of the financial risks that were being take in committing to the race.

Silverstone's contract for the British GP runs until 2026, but a break clause could end the deal early – although it needs to be activated before this year's race in July.

Grant believes that Liberty Media's increasing involvement in F1's commercial rights could be a step in the right direction.

"A few things are going in our favour," he told Motorsport.com's sister publication Autosport. "The impending change of F1 ownership should be helpful medium-term.

"Liberty seems genuinely sympathetic to our point of view. We need a re-balancing of the economic equation. We're exploring lots of ways and talking to a number of parties."

Public money

Another possible area that could provide assistance is the public sector, even though traditionally government money has not been available to help Silverstone.

"There are compelling arguments for public money to be used, but we understand F1 is seen as a rich sport," added Grant.

"I don't think a cash handout would be politically possible, but some other form of public support may be."

Grant added that, even if the BRDC did activate the break clause, it would not necessarily mean the end of the British GP.

"If we do exercise it we don't see that as the end – it would be a basis for further negotiation," he said. "We would not see it as irrevocable."

What about the sale?

The BRDC has spoken to several different parties over the last year about a possible Silverstone sale to help the club financially.

But recent developments have made the sale less urgent and the decision over the GP itself is now the main focus.

Grant believes the BRDC's financial position is looking stronger, thanks to deals such as the one to host a World Rallycross round from 2018 and approval of funding for its £20m Heritage Experience.

"We got terrific support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and now local councils and enterprise partnerships have got together to provide much of the balance of the required funding," he said.

"This is a big step forward because it should attract half a million new visitors to Silverstone every year. And that provides a stronger business case for the hotel, which has been on our wishlist for years.

"With all these things starting to go our way our general feeling is more optimistic, so we're feeling under less pressure to have to do a deal immediately [to sell Silverstone]."

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Series Formula 1
Author Kevin Turner