The future of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone has been cast into fresh doubt after the circuit's sporting director admitted it "cannot live with the present contract beyond 2019."
Silverstone's owners, the British Racing Drivers' Club, warned earlier this year it is considering exercising a break clause in the circuit's contract at the end of 2019 due to the "potentially ruinous" costs of hosting the event. In late January the BRDC denied reports Silverstone had already opted to give up on hosting the race, insisting no decision would be made until mid-July.
The circuit's current contract to host the British Grand Prix runs until 2026 and includes an escalator clause that raises the hosting fee each year, which sporting director Stuart Pringle admits Silverstone is struggling to meet.
"I sincerely hope it won't be the end of grand prix racing at Silverstone but we've made clear to the Formula One management we can't live with the present contract beyond 2019," Pringle is quoted as saying in the Guardian. "We are pretty much a full house and we are charging pretty much a full price and we still can't make the sums add up."
Liberty Media has said it wants to help circuits attract greater attendances and launched a new 'Fan Festival' initiative to heighten fan experiences at last weekend's Spanish Grand Prix, though Chase Carey played down suggestions of a possible contract negotiation with Silverstone in Barcelona.
"Liberty have got some great ideas and we support their plans for a better show and fan experience," Pringle said. "But they will likely take years to produce a significant benefit to the circuits and we haven't got the luxury of time. We need to deal in certainties and not possibilities."
At present, Silverstone is the only circuit in the UK which holds the Grade 1 status required to host an F1 grand prix. If Silverstone does opt to take up the break clause and no replacement is found in time for 2020, it would be the first time since 1950 -- when the world championship began -- that a British Grand Prix has not featured on the calendar.