Full British GP crowd 'secured Silverstone' future, says circuit chief

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The decision to allow a full crowd for the British Grand Prix has secured Silverstone's financial future.

That is the stark claim by circuit managing director Stuart Pringle as Formula 1 prepares for its biggest event since the Covid-19 pandemic began this weekend with 140,000 fans expected on Sunday.

Silverstone has regularly found itself in financial strife, with the circuit having to activate a release clause in its contract with F1 management back in 2017 before later agreeing to a new deal with Liberty Media in 2019.

However, even that wasn't enough to keep the historic racing venue safe from the impact of Covid-19, which meant hosting a race without fans again in 2021 really wasn't an option, as Pringle explained.

"It was absolutely critical," he told the Silverstone podcast. "Put it another way, if we hadn't [have been able to welcome fans] our entire viability, our ability to survive Covid was probably stacked against us.

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"I know for a fact, technically, we would not have been a viable business.

"There's always a bit of wiggle room and ways you may be able to get around it but we were staring over the edge.

"It was highly, highly marginal and this decision has secured Silverstone."

The British GP got the go-ahead for a capacity crowd after being included as one of the UK government's test events for large scale gatherings in the post-Covid age.

"It's really logical the government chose the British Grand Prix to be the final, and the largest of the test events because we are the last day before life restarts," Pringle noted.

"The events research programme [ERP], which we are now part of, has been working away for some months now, steadily increasing the volume of spectators at events, analysing the data that is acquired on each occasion and only when it is understood, and understood to be safe, is the next level stepped up to.

"So actually, it is right and logical that a large outdoor venue not served by public transport in the large part is going to host the largest of the sporting trial events.

"Hopefully a lot of data will be gathered so that if football this winter has to deal with a spike in Covid, there is a plan on the shelf that can keep sport and business alive in this country."


And while F1 appears well on course to put together a full 23-race calendar this season, Silverstone can even now offer itself as a backup option for a second GP if needed.

"If we can help by having a race later in the season then we would be delighted to assist," Pringle said in a separate interview with the PA news agency.

"Formula 1 deserves remarkable credit that they completed 17 races last year - the only global sport to have achieved such a feat - and I hope they can complete the calendar again.

"We have not been asked, and it is not a conversation that I have prompted, but if us hosting another race gets the championship to a sensible level, then of course we will help."