British Grand Prix under threat: Is the soul being sucked out of F1?

It was reported last week that the future of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone is under threat as a result of “ruinous” costs. The very fact that this is an issue serves as proof that the sport’s commercial rights holder opts for income over the iconic.

Location, location, location

Formula One is a global sport. Fans from around the globe part with their hard-earned money in order to witness their heroes do battle over three miles of racetrack and witness some spectacular moments of skill and bravery as a reward.

Its popularity is to be celebrated and cherished. Few other events captivate so many in the way that a Grand Prix does and therefore the more races we have, the better. It is great that the sport looks for new arenas in which the current crop of drivers can showcase their abilities. Having races in far-flung locations adds to the allure of the spectacle and I for one love the excitement of a shiny new race: the unknown draws you in and it allows drivers to write a new chapter in unfamiliar territory.

There are great examples of younger circuits becoming successful additions to the calendar in modern-day F1 and some of these have become an integral inclusion in the nine month exploration of our planet.

Grands Prix in Shanghai, Singapore, Sepang, Austin and Yas Marina have delivered critical points or championship deciders in their relatively short lifespans. The racing hasn’t always been of the highest quality, but these circuits have played host to some huge turning points that will go down in history.The Malaysian Grand Prix will soon be a thing of the past and this demonstrates that when circuits warn the world that affordability is an issue, said warnings should be heeded.

Some modern tracks, such as Abu Dhabi, have provided modern-day classics. Source: The Guardian.

The addition of new tracks is great for F1 and serves to increase its global appeal, however this should not happen at the expense of Formula One’s oldest and grandest venues.

History? What history?

If you delve into the rich tapestry of Formula One, its roots can be traced back to the United Kingdom and Continental Europe. This region is home to the sport’s greatest tracks and the drivers are nothing short of obsessed by the opportunity to emulate their childhood heroes.

Silverstone. Spa. Monaco. Monza. The Nurburgring. Mention these names to any Formula One fan and immediately their head fills with cherished memories. They are the heart of Formula One and it is nigh-on impossible to provide an adequate explanation of their importance to the sport. These tracks have an aura about them that only lovers of the sport can understand. They are as stunning as they are difficult to master and their status as circuit royalty means that those charged with nurturing the sport have an obligation to do the same for its most loved battlegrounds.

Mansell Senna.jpg
Silverstone, like all of the classic tracks, has given F1 fans priceless memories over the years. Source: ESPN F1


One of contemporary F1’s biggest disappointments is that it seems as if history is overlooked when decisions are made regarding the future direction of the series. As newer circuits in (now) wealthy parts of the world show they are willing to pay over the odds for the right to stage a Grand Prix, the costs rise to unmanageable levels for tracks in more traditional locations.

We have lost the Nurburgring and there has been a very real threat of Monza dropping off the calendar in recent times too. We are now faced with the prospect of being without a race at Silverstone and I am not exaggerating when I say that a calendar stripped of an event at the Northamptonshire circuit is one that lacks the quality of its predecessors.

Having witnessed some incredible races at the circuit myself, it would be heartbreaking to see it pulled. British fans are the best in the world and their passion for the sport is only rivalled by the Tifosi. British fans deserve the British Grand Prix to be held at the best racetrack in the world and other circuits on its level should have their status protected. There is no rational reason why a fanbase so knowledgeable and so emotionally invested in the sport should be left wanting.

The future

There is something wrong when you attract 140,000 people to watch a home hero claim victory and you then have to consider the future of the event on financial grounds. So much of modern F1 revolves around money and it is deeply frustrating. Yes, there is a need to generate income but when you are losing your soul as teams and tracks fall by the wayside, enough is enough.

If you are going to charge extortionate fees to host a Grand Prix, at least do your duty and serve up a Formula that attracts fans to the circuits to prevent them from going bust. A dark cloud currently hangs over the sport and I sincerely hope that Liberty Media prove to be the much needed knight in shining armour for this damsel in distress. There have been murmours that the company is sympathetic to Silverstone’s plight so hopefully this will manifest into some much needed action.

In recent years, the sport has headed to cash-rich countries such as Russia as more traditional venues have struggled. Source: The Guardian.

The contrast of both the traditionalism and the modernity of Formula One is something that I love. By all means, hold a race in a location seldom known by the majority of the world. Don’t, however, let it take priority over the sport’s roots. These are the circuits that have stood the test of time and should be fought for and preserved.

I am sure that many will come and go as the sport’s new owners seek to cash in on their prized new asset. F1 should strive for sustainability and now is a good time for new beginnings – don’t alienate those who hold the sport close to their hearts.

F1 is like a Great Oak. It needs strong roots in order to flourish. Remove them, and we are left with an uncertain and unstable future in which the sport is put at risk.


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