It’s the leading motor-racing event of the UK sporting summer, but attendance at this month’s British Grand Prix is expected to be significantly down as Formula One fans rebel against ever-increasing ticket prices.
The cheapest tickets for next’s Sunday’s race at Silverstone start at £145 – among the highest of any Grand Prix. This appears to have priced out many F1 enthusiasts as the downturn bites, with a course spokesman admitting to The Independent yesterday that sales “aren’t that strong”.
Public interest has also been hit by the lack of British success as neither Jenson Button nor Lewis Hamilton has won a race this year.
At close of business yesterday, Silverstone’s website showed that 22 ticket categories are still available while only 11 are sold out.
In comparison, last year Silverstone announced several weeks before the race that less than 5,000 tickets were remaining and on race-day a record 127,000 spectators were in attendance. This was despite downpours which transformed car parks into mud baths and forced organisers to turn spectators away for the qualifying sessions.
As many as 30,000 ticket-holders were told to stay away from the circuit as car parks were waterlogged and local roads were left groaning under the weight of traffic trying to access the circuit. To prevent this from being repeated the race organisers have invested in improving the non-tarmacked car parks and expanded both park and ride and shuttle services. However, it doesn’t look like traffic jams will be a problem this year.
On 30 May, three F1 teams, Marussia, McLaren and Williams, took to Twitter to try to drum up support. In a co-ordinated approach they all wrote: “Only #28 days to go until the 2013 Formula 1 Santander British Grand Prix! Have you got your tickets yet?”
A spokesman for Silverstone yesterday admitted that sales started slowly, He said: “We had record crowds at Silverstone in 2011 and 2012 and during our initial sales period for this year’s event ticket sales were not as strong, however they have picked up significantly in the last six to eight weeks and we are pleased to report that although the crowd will not be as big as last years it will still be one of our biggest of recent years.
“There are a number of influencing factors ranging from the current economic climate through to what is going on in the championship - British drivers on the podium always have a positive impact on ticket sales. Thirdly, there is no doubt about it that some people came last year, got soaking wet and didn’t have a good experience.”
Only races in Abu Dhabi and Brazil are more expensive than Britain, while Malaysia is cheapest with tickets starting at £13. At £60, the cheapest tickets to last month’s Champions League final were less than half the price of those for the British Grand Prix.
Similarly, tickets to the men’s final at Wimbledon, the Grand National and the final day of The Open can all be bought for less the cheapest option at the British Grand Prix.
The high-octane ticket prices are down to F1’s business model which is unlike other sports. Circuits generally do not get any revenue from the television broadcasts of the race or the corporate hospitality and advertising hoardings at the track. Money from this goes to the sport’s rights-holder the F1 Group, which is run by billionaire Bernie Ecclestone.
The circuits’ sole source of income from F1 is usually ticket sales and this barely covers the annual hosting fee with running costs often covered by investment from governments. The British Grand Prix gets no state subsidies which is why ticket prices are so high.
The organisers are forced to increase ticket prices due to an escalation clause in their contract with Ecclestone which boosts the hosting fee by an estimated 5 per cent annually. It currently stands at around £14m and the cheapest ticket prices have accelerated by 43.5 per cent since Silverstone signed a 17-year contract to host the race in 2009.
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