Fans sound caution over £250m deal to 'save' British GP

Ticket-price fears emerge as Silverstone agrees to pay escalating fees for 17 years

Damon Hill announced a deal to keep the British Grand Prix at Silverstone for 17 years yesterday, but secrecy over the growing costs involved led immediately to suspicions that ticket prices were destined to rise.

The former world champion, now president of the British Racing Drivers' Club which owns the track, is believed to have agreed to pay a total of £250m, with the annual fee starting at £10m and rising by around 5 per cent year on year until 2026. But since the terms allow little room for income to grow, fans fear they may be left to foot the rising bill.

The Formula One Supporters Association believes the BRDC has taken a financial gamble in signing the contract with Formula One Management, controlled by Bernie Ecclestone. Silverstone managing director Richard Phillips admitted it would be necessary for the circuit to be "creative" in raising income, but with sources such as television fees, circuit advertising and high-earning corporate hospitality already controlled by FOM, the only serious income accruing to the BRDC from the race comes in ticket sales.

Last year an aggregate 320,000 people entered the circuit over the race weekend, with more than half buying a three-day ticket costing around £100. As a result the BRDC was able to make a profit of around £2m on staging the event.

But FOSA president Georgio Zorbas said there was no guarantee those numbers could be maintained, let along increased, over the period of the contract. "When you get over the pleasure at the prospect of the British Grand Prix actually going ahead, it's an astonishingly brave, bold or some might even say dangerous financial commitment on the part of the BRDC," said Zorbas.

"Last year the weather was OK, and we had two competitive British drivers in Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, so numbers were good, but I know quite a lot of our members waited before buying, because tickets went quite slowly at first and so they got them at reduced prices.

"Hopefully Lewis and Jenson will still be at the top for the next few years, so the interest will stay high, but economic conditions are tough, people are finding it hard. Even staying at a campsite it's an expensive weekend, and if prices start rising, numbers will start falling off. It has to stay affordable."

Ecclestone is understood to have been demanding an annual fee of £12m, with an annual escalator of 7 per cent, but Ecclestone is understood to have agreed to lower this escalator to five per cent, or even 4 per cent.

Even assuming the initial annual fee agreed to be nearer £10m, however, that still means in 2019 the BRDC will have to find £15.5m, and in 2026, when the contract expires, the fee will have risen to nearly £22m.

"Our concern is how they intend to generate enough income to cover that, bearing in mind the number of people who can go is effectively capped anyway by agreement with the local police," said Zorbas.

The BDRC chairman rejected figures reported elsewhere that the first year's payment was as high as £12m and insisted he is "very happy" with the deal. Hill added of the deal: "It is a tough one to fulfil, there is no question of that, but it is a commitment. We have moved into a new realm where we are committed to developing Silverstone and making big investments into the circuit."

Silverstone is already committed to investing £7m on circuit developments this winter. In addition, a new £5m pit-lane garage and media centre facility – more in line with those of affluent government-supported circuits such as Abu Dhabi – is due for completion by 2011.

According to Phillips, the length of the 17-year contract is the key to securing the development, with speculation that money will have to be borrowed against future income.

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam