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F1: Silverstone Is Working to Remake Itself

Twenty-two years ago, Bernie Ecclestone, the former chief executive of Formula 1, described Silverstone as “a country fair masquerading as a world event.”

The home of the British Grand Prix has strikingly altered over two decades. In February, a 10-year contract was signed with Formula 1 that will see the race on the calendar through 2034.

“By the end of that 10 years, I want Silverstone to be recognized as the global home of motor racing, not just the home of British motorsport,” Stuart Pringle, the managing director of Silverstone, said in an interview in March.

Silverstone has diversified its business. It is no longer just a motorsport circuit. In 2011, the Wing, a new pit-and-paddock complex with conference and meeting facilities, opened; eight years later, an interactive museum; a year ago, a hotel that overlooks the start-finish straight welcomed its first visitors. This month, 60 luxury private track-side residences will be available to book. And there are plans to build an international-standard go-kart track.

“If you go back to when things were more financially challenging for Silverstone, much of that challenge was rooted in the fact that whilst we couldn’t make a lot of money out of the Grand Prix previously, we also couldn’t live without it,” Pringle said.

“We recognized it was a certain strength and a weakness, and we needed other strings to our bow. So we set about trying to diversify our business because we’re paying the costs of this enormous overhead.”

The Grand Prix weekend is the beating heart of Silverstone. It has had to move with the times, initiated by the arrival of Liberty Media, which took ownership of Formula 1 in 2017.

Pringle said that Formula 1, under Liberty Media, had been “very different to the previous ownership approach.”

“It’s given a more salable product for promoters like us,” he said. “We’ve worked hard to make our business profitable, to bring it back from the edge, stabilize it and set a new course.

“We’ve had some luck along the way, if you call Liberty’s vision that is ‘Drive to Survive’ luck,” he said, referring to the Netflix series on the sport. “It’s what a commercial rights holder should be doing, seeking to increase the value and awareness of its championship, its product.”

Lewis Hamilton, a seven-time champion, said the British Grand Prix was “an amazing, incredible event.”

“You look at it from a bird’s-eye view, and for the whole event, all the space is used up,” he said. “So many fans come and have a great weekend.”

Looking ahead to the next 10 years, Hamilton of Mercedes said Silverstone had to “watch the ticket prices, as they’re continuing to rise.”

“With the cost of living nowadays, it’s too high,” he said. “I’m thinking from a fan perspective, someone with a family. It’s looking into ways where you can make it more accessible for people.”

For two adults and two children over 11 years old, general admission tickets cost 1,716 pounds, or about $2,160, and tickets for just Sunday’s Grand Prix cost about $1,550.

Pringle said he was mindful of the prices, but racing was only one element of the weekend. Silverstone will become a music festival venue over the four days, with Kings of Leon, Stormzy, Pete Tong and Rudimental playing. It will also feature a comedy club, with Russell Kane, Troy Hawke and Al Murray performing.

Silverstone has to find a way to pay. “We unashamedly want to make the British Grand Prix weekend into the biggest summer festival where it’s a world-class sporting event by day and a world-class music festival by night,” Pringle said. “And we’re well on the way to doing that.”

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