Stewart calls on government to save British Grand Prix

We can’t remember when we first came up with the term Planet Paddock but somehow that description of the strange little land populated by beings seemingly totally out of touch with the real world has never seemed so apt.

At a time the British Prime Minister is essentially having to pay a billion pounds to keep her job, when the country is in turmoil as it seeks to find favourable terms for its exit from the European Union (or not), when the police, NHS, local government, the armed forces (such as they are) and who knows who else are struggling to maintain some semblance of service in the face of austerity, Sir Jackie Stewart is calling on the UK government to come to the aid of the British Grand Prix.

Having agreed to a deal which appeared perfectly fine, until it read the little bit in the small print regarding an annual 5% increment, the British Racing Drivers’ Club, which owns Silverstone, has finally come to realise that it is, as chairman John Grant so eloquently put it, facing a “potentially ruinous risk”.

Consequently, the BRDC has a matter of days before deciding whether it will trigger a clause in its contract that will terminate it after the 2019 race, as opposed to letting it run until 2026 and thereby face said risk of ruin.

Talking to the Grand Prix Show on talkSPORT2, the three-time world champion called on the government to step in.

“In this country we are the capital of motorsport technology,” he said. “My information, supplied by the authorities, is that 143,000 people are employed in the British motorsports industry in the United Kingdom. That means there is a high technology labour bloc which is valuable to the United Kingdom because about 80 per cent of it is exported. That means we have a tremendous contribution to make to the country.

“Many other sports are given some assistance to be able to bring medals home,” he continued. “The British GP has never been able to get the government, and that’s been several governments, to support it. If there is a gap between the Liberty Media contract and the affordability for the British Racing Drivers’ Club and Silverstone, then I think we have to find a way for government support to happen.

“Other sports don’t have an industry behind them as powerful, and lucrative, to the nation as the British GP has through the technology which Britain leads the world in,” he insisted. “The Mercedes Silver Arrows are not manufactured in Stuttgart. The car is manufactured in Brackley and so is the engine. It’s an entirely British operation and it’s the great German team who are taking the benefit of that on a global basis.

“We cannot afford to lose the British GP,” he warned. “I fought very hard to keep it, and Bernie Ecclestone did make concessions, but it was still a very large amount of money for a private members club to afford. It’s the only private members club in the world who has a grand prix circuit being raced on since 1950, and that’s when the first grand prix was ever held. The first world championship was held at Silverstone in 1950 and we have not missed a year since and Britain has contributed enormously to the world of motorsport because of how well we’ve done over those years, both with drivers and also the technology of the cars.”

BRDC triggers British Grand Prix break clause

As expected, the British Racing Drivers’ Club has triggered the clause in its contract to cease hosting the British GP after 2019

This means that unless a new contractual arrangement can be reached with Liberty, the new owners of F1, 2019 will be the last year that the British Grand Prix takes place at Silverstone.

The official statement confirming the move reads as follows:

“This decision has been taken because it is not financially viable for us to deliver the British Grand Prix under the terms of our current contract. We sustained losses of £2.8m in 2015 and £4.8m in 2016, and we expect to lose a similar amount this year. We have reached the tipping point where we can no longer let our passion for the sport rule our heads. It would not only risk the very future of Silverstoneand the BRDC, but also the British motorsport community that depends on us.

However, I want to be clear that although we have now activated the break clause, we are fully supportive of the changes the Liberty team are making to improve the F1 experience. Our hope is that an agreement can still be reached, so that we can ensure a sustainable and financially viable future for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone for many years to come.”