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Silverstone owners move to end Formula 1 contract

Lewis Hamilton celebrates winning the British Grand Prix. Credit: PA

The organisers of the British Grand Prix traditionally hope for two things: that the weather holds; and a British driver wins.

For the last two years the owners of Silverstone couldn't have had it any better.

On both occasions Lewis Hamilton has swept to victory and 139,000 people have been at the racetrack to watch him do it.

Jackpot, you would think, but no.

The British Racing Drivers' Club (BDRC) owns Silverstone. It claims to have lost nearly £3 million in 2015 and nearly £5 million last year.

It expects to lose money this weekend too because, under the current contract, the BDRC pays F1 £17m to stage the race, a fee that will rise to rise to £27m by 2026 when the current deal ends.

Six month ago ITV News revealed the BRDC believed the contract with F1 was "potentially ruinous". On Tuesday it moved to activate a break clause, allowing it to terminate the contract early.

Unless common ground is found the last Grand Prix Silverstone hosts will be in 2019.

On Monday night Liberty Media, the new owners of F1, said the BRDC decision is "regrettable" and accused the organisation of "posturing".

In a statement F1, they said: "Our focus is to preserve the British Grand Prix. We will carry on negotiating with the promoter in good faith and in private to reach a fair and equitable solution."

A lot of which raises the prospect that common ground can be found.

On Monday night, I spoke to Bernie Ecclestone, the former CEO of F1, who negotiated the deal the BRDC wants out of.

He told me the Silverstone contract was one of the most generous in F1 and was the longest-running. He said he was surprised that Silverstone's owners were struggling to make it work commercially.

"Almost every other race in Europe would happily swap for the Silverstone deal," he insisted.

Ecclestone doesn't believe that any other racetrack in the UK has either the capacity or the facilities to safely host a Grand Prix race but thinks fears that there won’t be a British Grand Prix beyond 2019 are misplaced.

"I'd wager someone will take it on," he told ITV News.

Bernie Ecclestone Credit: PA