It’s the news all British Formula 1 fans were hoping to hear, and after the leaked reports and rumours of a deal being close, half expected: Silverstone has come to an agreement with Liberty, the commercial rights holder to F1 to host the British Grand Prix at the Northamptonshire circuit until 2024.
The wrangling began (officially) when in July 2017 the BRDC, owners of Silverstone triggered a break clause in their contract to host the annual British Grand Prix, citing unsustainable costs associated with, in particular, the escalator that upped the cost of the rights to host a British Grand Prix by 5% annually.
This took the cost of hosting a Grand Prix above what was sustainable for a private enterprise, from £11million in 2011 to £16million by 2016 and the BRDC faced the decision to drop the event or potentially go out of business.
Of course this game of cat and mouse is nothing new – it seems that whenever Silverstone has approached the end of its contract in the last couple few decades it has has found itself in a similar position.
Like the guy in the SkyTV retentions team when you ring up to cancel, you know he doesn’t want you to leave, you know that he knows that you don’t want to leave, it’s just a matter of hammering out exactly how much discount he’s going to give you on a price that’s sufficiently inflated to allow him to give you a discount in the first place.
Well Silverstone and Liberty have both found their prices and it may well have been the figure they were each looking for in the first place.
What will have helped Silverstone in the negotiations is that the London Grand Prix doesn’t appear to be an option, and neither is a Grand Prix anywhere else in the UK. If there was to be a British Grand Prix in 2020 it had to be at Silverstone.
Add to that the torrent of new circuits that would be ready to fill any circuit not wishing to continue as a host venue to F1 seems to be more of a trickle with just Vietnam and The Netherlands having signed up under Liberty’s watch, with almost twice as many circuits on the verge of dropping off the calendar.
The BRDC found themselves holding quite a few cards in their dealings with Liberty – hopefully this time they’ve engineered themselves a contract that is sustainable long term so we don’t go through the same process in three or four years time.