British Grand Prix director defends F1 ticket prices after Hamilton criticism

<span>Max Verstappen celebrates winning the 2023 British Grand Prix at Silverstone.</span><span>Photograph: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Max Verstappen celebrates winning the 2023 British Grand Prix at Silverstone.Photograph: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images

The managing director of the British Grand Prix, Stuart Pringle, has issued a staunch defence of the ticket pricing for this year’s race, emphatic that the money made from the event is ploughed back into the circuit and British motorsport, after criticism from Lewis Hamilton and fans that the cost of attending was too high.

Last week the seven-time Formula One world champion Hamilton, who has a record eight victories at Silverstone, praised the event which is just over a week away but warned its prices might be untenable for families due to the cost of living crisis, an opinion that has been echoed by fans on social media.

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Pringle, who runs the circuit and the race for its owners the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC), was adamant his organisation had attempted to address the issue. “We fully support Lewis’ comments,” he said. “We have a greater number of our lowest price general admission tickets available this year compared to 2023.”

Four-day grandstand tickets still available for the weekend start at £629 and general admission for race day at £309 although cheaper tickets were available earlier in the year.

Pringle has been in charge at the circuit through a period when hosting the race was a loss-making affair, threatening its future viability, to a turnaround where it now boasts healthy finances and signed a 10-year contract with F1 earlier this year.

Economic stability is of no little import to Silverstone. The circuit remains one of only two on the current 24-race F1 calendar which enjoys no third party, government, or public funding, alongside the Dutch GP at Zandvoort.

It is believed much of the improvement in financial stability is down to a long-term hosting fee agreed with F1 that was actually manageable for the circuit. The surge in popularity for F1 has also played a part. However it should be noted that even before the Netflix Drive to Survive effect was felt, Silverstone always enjoyed enormous popularity.

Pringle maintained that unlike other similar entertainment and sporting events, now it is finally turning a profit, almost all the money made from the race was poured back into the track.

“The BRDC’s financial fortunes are vastly different to 10 years ago – we have worked really hard here to turn this listing oil tanker around,” he said. “The BRDC has always chosen to operate as a not-for-profit company. With an exception of a small percentage that goes toward the running costs of the club, 95% of the money gets reinvested. There are no dividends, it is reinvested into the site for the good of British motorsport, putting the profits we are making back into the fabric of Silverstone.”

This now includes a commitment to building a state-of-the-art, international standard, £16.2m kart track at the circuit to encourage future British drivers, as well as further investing in infrastructure. Pringle cites this as an example of long-term activity that was impossible when the organisation was simply battling to stay afloat year after year.

“When we made an operating loss on a grand prix year after year you can’t invest in the infrastructure, you can’t move forward,” he said. “There was a prolonged period of under-investment when we made no meaningful money out of our major events. It introduces a degree of paralysis to the decision making, because the risk is so great.”

Prices have risen in recent years across almost all sporting events. Pringle points to the extent of entertainment over a race weekend, which features four nights of live music including Stormzy, Kings of Leon and Self Esteem as well as a separate alternative music venue in a big-top marquee and a comedy club.

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This fits with how F1 wants races to be presented, as destination, entertainment events, even when the destination in this case is the often windswept former airfield.

With a record attendance for an F1 world championship event of 480,000 over four days last year, Pringle expects the race will also sell out to its slightly reduced capacity of 460,000 this year and that its investment and commitment has been recognised by F1. An achievement perhaps not to be sniffed at when European races are under increasing pressure as state-funded meetings elsewhere make increasingly lucrative offers to join the championship.

“One of the reasons why F1 was keen to secure Silverstone as a venue for 10 years is because of the value we add to their championship and consequently their share price. They wanted us as much as we wanted them,” he said.