Silverstone has spoken out in terms of the situation that they have a contract to hold the Grand Prix in Northamptonshire until 2027, but as early as 2019 they might decide to break the contract due to increased costs.
With a good year they still fall short of funds needed to cover site fees and general hosting fees charged by Formula One. They are within their rights as per one of the clauses in the 2010 contract following Donington Park’s withdrawal. They must inform by the 2017 Grand Prix whether they intend to activate that break clause. This allows an opportunity to discuss and see if different tracks are suitable for the 2020 Grand Prix. Liberty Media insist that a British Grand Prix is vital on the Formula One calendar. If Silverstone ends the contact early, where does Formula One go in Britain?
Motorsport Vision is a company set up in 2004 by Jonathan Palmer and two partners, and began running events to help gain young drivers skills and experience in 4-wheel racing, such as Formula Palmer Audi. The Octagon Group at the time owned four major British tracks but due to increased costs for the British GP sold them to keep the Grand Prix. MSV then jumped in and brought them. Oulton Park, Brands Hatch, Snetterton and Cadwell Park all changed hands.
Could F1 go full circle and return to Donington Park, who agreed in 2008 that they would run the 2010 British GP onwards after securing a 17 year contract. That contract never came to fruition owners at the time had agreed in the deal that a multi-million development to lengthen track layout and redevelop the pit complex upon principle of the funds being raised and invested by third party sources. In late 2009 due to lack of funds it was obvious that they could not fulfil that requirement of the contract. Bernie Ecclestone took a financial hit to keep F1 racing in Britain at Silverstone. F1 has been in Britain since its inception in 1950 using tracks of Aintree, Brands Hatch and Silverstone, which hosted F1’s very first race.
January this year Motorsport Vision (MSV) brought Donington Park. MSV currently also per mentioned own other successful British tracks. Snetterton being a track with most improvement multi-million redevelopment in 2011 greatly changing the layout from an almost original circuit of two straights connected by 90 degree corners. Snetterton’s full redevelopment resulted in three different layouts known as Snetterton 100, 200 & 300. It had a completely fresh infield section and upon review widened certain areas on the existing track which were seen as best overtaking opportunities.
Oulton Park was falling behind the times, and with MSV buying the track they gave the track a new lease of life, as a result it has become a crowd favourite with British Superbike and British Touring Car fans. The Snetterton and Oulton Park redevelopments are smaller than those required by Donington to gain the FIA Grade 1 license to host a Grand Prix. Liberty Media, the current F1 owners could possibly use that as a guideline to show that MSV have the capability to improve Donington to that said standard. An extension on the track as per Snetterton to increase lap time and further entice overtaking is something vital on the agenda. MSV are looking at the possibilities of extending and creating different layouts regardless if F1 comes to Donington.
The good news for Donington that would only help it as a viable option is that travelling to the track is rather easy like Silverstone. It is near the M1 motorway, which is a road from central London to Leeds. The M1 has had development on it recently to handle more traffic. In terms if public transport the East Midlands Airport is very close to the land Donington is on and Derby Midland Station is very near. MSV advise to travel via public transport if possible. Unlike Silverstone when it comes to the majority of car parking it is on hard standing surface, generically in Britain it rains, and sometimes Silverstone has struggled with its grass fields. Getting to the track is something that is discussed and looked at when it comes to the grading of each track.
MSV do have plans on the table to modernise Donington Park, this was with the smallest possibility of Formula 1 returning. The situation Silverstone has been in was raised in early 2017 just as they brought it. It would be great to return to the track for the first time since Ayrton Senna’s iconic start and victory in the 1993 European Grand Prix. They have some funds to use towards their project as per mentioned but would need sufficiently more if they were develop it to become the new home of the British GP.
Britain has very limited options, the only other contender is Brands Hatch. The Kent circuit has held Formula 1 races in the past on its Grand Prix circuit layout in the past, but this was many a year ago. 1986 was when the last British GP was held at Brands Hatch was deemed too dangerous due to increased speeds, and the circuit length. Nigel Mansell won but it was overshadowed by a crash on the first lap forcing Frenchman Jacques Latiffe into early retirement after breaking both legs in the Ligier. As with Donington, it would in all likelihood need changes to the layout, with the current circuit boasting mostly high-speed corners and few overtaking opportunities. Druid’s (Turn 2) and Pilgrim’s Drop through Hawthorn Hill, between turns 4 and 5 could really be the only passing opportunities on the current layout.
The problem for Brands isn’t just the on the track, with accessing the circuit on the A20 difficult. Silverstone and Donington are near major roads and therefore can handle massive amounts of traffic. The situation is the majority of roads towards Brands Hatch is single file which could cause massive congestion and problems if a car were to break down.
Whether F1 goes to either Brands or Donington if Silverstone do continue with ending their partnership with Formula 1 MSV will be the catalyst in continuing the British Grand Prix beyond 2019. Jonathan Palmer has funds set aside, and can use those to begin the work needed, seeing that being used successfully third parties am sure will follow in with further funds to see Formula 1 return to Donington albeit 10 years late from the original contract agreement in 2008.