SILVERSTONE, England (AP) — The future of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone is under threat after the historic circuit's owners triggered a break clause in its Formula One contract on Tuesday in a bid for a more financially viable deal.
Silverstone staged its first F1 race in 1948, but the 2019 grand prix could be the last unless F1 owner Liberty Media reduces the fee which exceeds $20 million for this weekend's event.
The British Racing Drivers' Club had to give two years' notice to terminate a contract that was agreed in 2009 when the best-attended race on the F1 calendar was last under threat.
"This decision has been taken because it is not financially viable for us to deliver the British Grand Prix under the terms of our current contract," BRDC chairman John Grant said. "We have reached the tipping point where we can no longer let our passion for the sport rule our heads.
"It would not only risk the very future of Silverstone and the BRDC, but also the British motorsport community that depends on us."
The F1 ownership said it is focused on preserving the race.
"We will carry on negotiating with the promoter in good faith and in private to reach a fair and equitable solution," an F1 statement said.
The BRDC reported losses in 2015 of 2.8 million pounds (now about $3.5 million) and 4.8 million pounds in 2016.
The existing deal sees the race fee rise 5 percent annually — an increase from 11.5 million pounds in 2015 to 16.2 million pounds this year. The race organizers said the fee will have leapt to 25 million pounds by 2026 — the last year of the current contract.
"Our hope is that an agreement can still be reached, so that we can ensure a sustainable and financially viable future for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone for many years to come," Grant said.
The BRDC claims that Silverstone is the most popular stop on the F1 calendar, with 350,000 attending a race weekend.
The motorsport series came under new ownership earlier this year when the U.S. sports and entertainment firm bought out investment fund CVC Capital Partners.
F1 chief executive Chase Carey in January ruled out agreeing to cut-price deals to retain historic races on the calendar, while acknowledging the importance of races with a strong heritage.
"We think these races (in places like Britain) should be bigger and more profitable," Carey said, "and we are willing to work with promoters to figure out how to achieve that."