BRDC president Derek Warwick says that the nightmare of last year’s British Grand Prix still hangs over this year’s event, but hopes that fans will turn out this year and support the event for the long term.
Tickets sales are down this year in a season which has yet to see a British race winner. There are also bad memories from last year’s event where torrential rain caused chaos.
Many fans were asked not to attend on Saturday so the organisers could get the car parks ready for race day. Around 400 public events were cancelled in the UK that weekend, but Silverstone went ahead with the race on Sunday.
“It’s always difficult to tell a race fan not to come on qualifying day because it’s quite a big day for everybody – so it was very emotional for all of us,” Warwick told the June edition of the JA on F1 podcast.
“We also thought financially it was going to hit us hard. It’s a very marginal business so therefore it was a very big decision for us to take to ask people to stay away.
“Fortunately, the insurance people stepped up and we paid out £1.1m compensation. That has hurt us this year and we are behind in ticket sales. Tickets are the only thing we have got to sell because Bernie takes everything else.”
Silverstone, which is operated by the BRDC and has long-term rights to the British Grand Prix, has invested heavily in infrastructure and drainage to ensure the events of 2012 are not repeated, but that has come at a cost, so the support of British fans is vital going forward,
“We’re struggling to keep up with our debt, ” added Warwick. “We have a big debt at the moment. We spent £42m on the circuit and the wing – so all we need now is for Lewis [Hamilton] and Jenson’s [Button] car to get quicker and that German driver [Sebastian Vettel] to go a bit slower – along with that Spanish driver [Fernando Alonso].
“It’s surprising what a difference that makes. When Lewis and Jenson are doing well we see a massive spike in people buying tickets.”
Warwick added that he is pleased with the job Silverstone is doing, but wished that the British Grand Prix, which this year takes place on 28-30 June, would get some sort of support from the government.
“The BRDC and Silverstone have been very brave in the commitment we have taken on our shoulders to spend the money we have done to secure the British Grand Prix,” he said.
“I’m disappointed we don’t get any assistance from the lottery or the government. There are not many circuits out there which don’t get at something from the government or a wealthy royal family.
“We do an amazing job. We’ve raised every grandstand three metres so spectators can see more. It’s not boring flat Silverstone any more. From most grandstands, you can see three or four corners and if you’re in the loop grandstand, you can see six or seven corners. There are not many circuits that can boast that.”
To listen to the full interview with Derek Warwick, plus more from Christian Horner, top engineer Mark Gillan and F1 money expert Zak Brown make sure you listen to the June edition of the JA on F1 podcast available to download via the iTunes store or directly here.