British GP future: Are there any alternative venues to Silverstone?
Is there another track in the UK that could step into the void if Silverstone drops out?
By William Esler
Last Updated: 10/01/17 10:00am
With the future of the British GP in doubt after Silverstone said they were considering terminating their contract, where else could host the race?
F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone said two other circuits had contacted him about staging the race, but would any other UK venue have the infrastructure in place by 2020 when Silverstone - who have confirmed the 2017, 2018 and 2019 races are not under threat - may step aside?
British GP history
Only three circuits have staged the British GP since the World Championship began in 1950 at Silverstone.
Aintree staged the race five times between 1955 and 1962, before Brands Hatch started hosting the race on alternate years with Silverstone between 1963 and 1986.
Donington Park has also held a grand prix, but not the British GP. The east Midlands venue hosted the European GP in 1993, a second UK race alongside the British GP at Silverstone.
Donington did have a 17-year contract to host the British GP from 2010, but the then-owners did not have sufficient finances to complete the renovations, leaving the circuit a building site unsuitable for any racing and on the verge of closure.
After falling into administration no buyer was found and with the lease terminated ownership reverted back to the Wheatcroft family. Since then the demolished sections of track have been rebuilt, while others have been modernised and re-profiled and the infield re-grassed to create viewing areas for fans.
"Since the very successful restart of Donington Park six years ago, the board at the circuit has consistently made it clear that we have no intention of bidding for the British Grand Prix," a spokesperson told Sky Sports F1.
So that's one venue ruled out, but where else in the UK could stage the race? To host an F1 race, a track requires a Grade 1 licence from the FIA.
The latest list of circuit classifications from the FIA was published in September 2016 and at present Silverstone is the only UK circuit holding Grade 1 status.
The intermediary category 1T, which was used to approve a circuit for F1 testing but not racing, has been dropped.
In the Grade 2 category, both Brands Hatch's Grand Prix and Indy circuits are listed, along with Donington and Rockingham's International Long and International Short circuits.
Brands Hatch did do a deal with F1 for the British GP in the early 2000s but plans to return the race to the Kent venue never came to fruition.
A major problem for the venue are noise restrictions in place to appease local residents. These prevent any racing taking place before 10am on Sundays, with engines not to be started before 9.15am. Only one exception is allowed for one international motorcycle event each year.
The circuit is also limited to six days of noisy cars, or Class 3 Vehicles, each year.
In addition the circuit would need substantial work carried out to improve safety and increase overtaking, with the Druids hairpin the only clear passing spot at present.
A new pits facility would be required with the current Brands Hatch paddock too small for F1 and no space to expand due to its location within the bowl of the circuit, between the Brabham and Cooper Straights.
Access to the circuit is also another major issue, with just single carriageway roads leading to the track. A British Touring Car event with 40,000 fans in attendance causes long tailbacks, let alone an F1 race with 140,000 fans.
By comparison Silverstone is connected to two motorways by dual carriageways which are redirected to allow four lanes to carry traffic away from the track.
Current Brands Hatch owners Motorsport Vision declined to comment on any hopes to bring the British GP to the venue or their other circuits in their portfolio, Snetterton and Oulton Park, in the future.
Rockingham Motor Speedway
Meanwhile, Rockingham in Northamptonshire offers some of the best viewing for fans thanks to nearly all of the circuit being visible from the grandstands as it is built within an oval.
It is regularly used by F1 teams for filming days and in 2001 FIA race director Charlie Whiting admitted that it would take little to bring it up to standard.
With vast concrete car parking, the infamous scenes of mudbaths in Silverstone's carparks shouldn't be an issue, although getting to the track could be. Like Brands Hatch, access is via a series of single carriageway roads.
But despite being the UK's newest track, it would still require plenty of work to freshen up the facilities and grandstands, while the circuit itself would also need some changes to be made.
As the track was built for oval racing, it also has an American-style circuit design of a concrete wall separating the garages from the pitlane. This would need a complete redesign before hosting a race.
Circuit of Wales
With options running out, what about the proposed Circuit of Wales?
The big problem here is that building work is yet to commence at the £425m facility near Ebbw Vale, with the Welsh government refusing to underwrite the project in the summer of 2016.
The Circuit of Wales currently has the rights to stage Britain's round of the MotoGP championship until 2024, but the absence of an actual circuit means it is forced to host the race at Silverstone.
But the venue does have big ambitions.
Speaking to Sky F1 at the 2015 British Moto GP, circuit boss Michael Carrick was open to the idea of staging an F1 race.
"It is an interesting question, but it is not in our business plan, it is not our objective and it is not a decision a circuit can do on its own," Carrick said. "Protecting the British GP in Britain is our priority. Will it happen in the future? I don't know, the question isn't one for the circuit operator to answer.
"We certainly have designed in flexibility for any eventuality, we are going to run this thing for 120 years, so the reality is you've got to be bullet proof."
But with no track built, the prospect of F1 in Wales remains a distant dream.
Silverstone therefore appears the only option for Formula 1 in the UK. And if they opt against staging the race, the prospect of a British GP looks bleak.