By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) – Lewis Hamilton’s home British Grand Prix will stay at Silverstone for at least the next five years under a new deal announced by Formula One on Wednesday.
The race’s future had been in doubt since 2017, when a break clause was activated to terminate the contract after this weekend’s grand prix.
The British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) that owns the circuit had argued that the previous contract negotiated with former supremo Bernie Ecclestone was no longer financially viable due to escalating fees.
Formula One said in a statement the new deal ensured the circuit, which hosted the first world championship grand prix in 1950, would remain on the calendar until at least the end of 2024.
“We have always said that, if it is to have a long-term future, our sport must preserve its historic venues and Silverstone and Great Britain represent the cradle of this sport,” said Formula One chairman Chase Carey.
“Formula One is a global sport, held on five continents, watched by an audience of over 500 million fans around the world and our aim is to grow this number by bringing the sport we love to new countries, while also maintaining its roots,” he added.
“Silverstone and the British Grand Prix are an integral part of that vision.”
No financial details were immediately available.
Britain and Italy are the only two countries that have always featured on the Formula One calendar since the debut championship.
A new contract will be a big boost to British motor racing, with seven of the 10 F1 teams based in the country and the motorsport industry providing tens of thousands of jobs.
Mercedes’ five times world champion Hamilton has won five times at Silverstone and last year’s race at the former World War Two airfield was the best attended of any grand prix with a 140,500 crowd on race day.
“Silverstone is one of the most iconic Grands Prix on the F1 calendar and with such a rich heritage it would have been disastrous for the sport and fans had we not managed to find a way forward,” said BRDC chairman John Grant.
“2020 will be the 70th anniversary of the first round of the World Championship which took place at Silverstone on 13th May 1950 and will make next year’s event all the more special.”
The deal switches the focus to Spain, Germany and Mexico — all races without contracts for 2020 and at risk of dropping off the calendar.
Italy has also yet to confirm a new deal, although there is an agreement in principle, but the race at Monza is expected to continue given the history surrounding it.
A street race in Vietnam and a Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort are due to debut next year on what is set to remain a 21-race championship.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Peter Rutherford)