Formula One bosses considered moving next year’s British Grand Prix back to April so that Silverstone could host the 1,000th championship race but that honour will go to China instead, according to the sport’s managing director Sean Bratches.
Bratches told Reuters at last weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix that the British weather had made such a rescheduling impractical. Silverstone, which hosted the first Formula One championship race in 1950, will put on this year’s British race on July 8.
“Silverstone was the first grand prix and we would have liked to see the 1,000th go back to the first, I think there’s a nice story and a nice harmony there.” – F1 Managing Director Sean Bratches
“But when I was told, being a relatively new Brit, that the weather is sub-optimal in April, they warded me off that quickly.”
The American, who joined Formula One last year when U.S.-owned Liberty Media took over as the commercial rights holder, confirmed China — which will be the third race on the 2019 calendar — would host the 1,000th.
The 2019 schedule has yet to be published and there has been some speculation about whether Liberty might tweak it to ensure a circuit with more atmosphere and history hosted the milestone race. Silverstone has hosted a British Grand Prix in April before, in 2000 when it rained heavily and the car parks turned into fields of mud.
The main car parks were then closed to all except coaches, forcing many spectators to trudge over fields to watch the action. Bratches said Formula One planned to make a big deal of the 1,000th race throughout 2019, with China a key market for the sport’s growth.
“We’ve spent a lot of time on this topic and looking at different circumstances, weather patterns,” he said of the schedule.
“China is a great place to race. It’s part of our future and we’re excited about going there for that particular race.
“That said… next year we’re going to celebrate it as the year of the 1,000th grand prix so you’re going to see integrations across the year celebrating this incredible milestone,” he added.
Bratches said the Chinese organisers had welcomed the move.
“They’re embracing it and we’re starting to have discussions in terms of how we can amplify it and make sure that it’s celebrated in an appropriate way,” he said.
Formula One has a record-equalling 21 races this season and Miami could be joining the party in 2019 with a street race proposed.
That has led to paddock speculation about Azerbaijan’s future but Bratches said that race was not linked in any way to Miami.
“Nonsense. Capital letters. There’s no relationship between our efforts and grand prix in Baku and any other grand prix in the world,” he said. “Fake news.”
Silverstone’s future has also been in the spotlight after the circuit’s owners activated a break clause in 2017 which means next year’s race will be the last unless a new deal is done. Representatives from Silverstone were in Barcelona but Bratches said there had been no meeting.
“We didn’t have conversations with them this particular weekend. Most of the discussions we’ve been having have been taking place in London and that’s not to insinuate that anything is wrong,” he said.
“There’s a lot of promoters here from Singapore, Silverstone and around Europe and the globe. Hockenheim is here,” he added, referring to the German track whose deal expires this year.
Hockenheim promoters said last week that they wanted to continue but with a new ‘risk-free’ deal, a concept that has met with little favour in the past and may again fall on barren ground.
“A lot of people might want a risk-free contract but that’s not our business model. We’re looking forward to the grand prix there this year,” said Bratches. – Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by John O’Brien