By Alan Baldwin
SPIELBERG, Austria (Reuters) – Formula One’s new owners Liberty Media should buy Silverstone to end lingering uncertainty over the future of the British Grand Prix circuit and grow the sport, McLaren executive director Zak Brown said on Saturday.
The American, speaking at the Austrian Grand Prix, added that he had conveyed that opinion to the commercial rights holders.
The British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC), which owns the former World Two airbase, is expected next week to activate for financial reasons a break clause in its contract to host the race.
“My view is Liberty should buy Silverstone,” said Brown, a sports marketing expert who joined McLaren last year after former boss and shareholder Ron Dennis was ousted.
“I have voiced my views on that (to Formula One Management). They listen and they will be quick to tell you if they disagree and they didn’t disagree with the logic,” he added.
“But I wouldn’t want to put words in their mouths that that means they are going out and buying it now because I have no idea.”
The BRDC fears that the current contract, with an annual rise in hosting fees agreed with previous F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, exposes them to a “potentially ruinous risk”.
They have argued that the break clause would allow for a renegotiation under more favorable terms. But there is also a risk that the race could fall off the calendar in 2019 and go elsewhere.
Silverstone, which hosted the first world championship grand prix in 1950, has a contract to 2026 with a break clause from 2019 that must be exercised two years in advance. Practice for this year’s race starts next Friday.
“I think Silverstone’s a great track,” said Brown, whose team is one of a majority in Formula One to be based in Britain.
“I sympathize if with the escalator they can’t make money. We need to figure out a way for them to make money to either create new revenue streams or re-cut the deal.
“But I think there should be a Formula One Hall of Fame, you could do racing schools, eSports. If you owned the property yourself there’s a lot of incremental activities.
“Testing. Maybe instead of it all being in Barcelona for eight days, you could move forward to Silverstone and really open it up to the fans.”
Brown suggested the sport could follow the example of Nascar and end up owning several circuits, but that would be a longer term proposition.
“Nascar owns 22 of the races that they compete at which I think is made up of 12 circuits. Indianapolis owns the Motor Speedway. But I think you’ve got to buy one before you buy three or four,” he said.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by clare Lovell)