Former Formula 1 team boss David Richards has warned about serious consequences for the UK motorsport industry if the British Grand Prix is dropped.
“It’s clear that it would be a significant threat to the position of British motorsport not to have a round of the Formula 1 world championship in this country," he said.
Richards gave his view while delivering the Motorsport Safety Fund’s annual Watkins Lecture at the Autosport International show on Friday. He was speaking as the new chairman of Britain’s Motor Sport Association.
Richards is also chairman and founder of Prodrive. In addition, he is a former chairman of Aston Martin. He previously managed Suburu's world rally team, and was BAR team principal in F1 from 2001 to 2004.
"The British Grand Prix has been on the Formula 1 calendar since the championship first began back in 1950," Richards pointed out.
"In a recent fan survey the British event was in the top four iconic Formula 1 races that fans globally wanted to watch.
"It contributed well over £50 million to the UK economy each year," he added.
"Nearly 4.5 million UK TV viewers tuned in to watch the British Grand Prix last year. So it’s also important to the armchair enthusiast.”
"With this in mind the MSA will actively and energetically support discussions to ensure the ongoing inclusion of the British Grand Prix in the Formula 1 calendar beyond 2019."
Richards declined to go into details of what sort of support the MSA would be able to provide.
"It’s difficult to say how this support may manifest itself," he admitted. "Whether it’s lobbying, seeking government intervention or otherwise.
"However I fully support the importance of this event for UK motorsport," he insisted. "The MSA will do what it can to ensure the Grand Prix’s long-term future in this country."
Silverstone, which currently hosts the British Grand Prix, is owned by the British Racing Drivers Club. The BRDC says it is losing too much money staging the race. Under the current contract, the fee payable to Formula One Management increases each year.
“The rationale behind this decision was very clear for the BRDC," agreed Richards. "[They] have been losing money running the Grand Prix for many years and faced a steep annual rise in fees to host the race."
Last summer the BRDC activated a break clause in its existing contract. It means the current agreement will be terminated after the 2019 race. Interested parties are now seeking an alternative agreement to rescue the race.
Formula 1's new owners are unlikely to agree a broad reduction in hosting fees. However, an agreement to share the event as a joint venture between FOM and Silverstone has been mooted.
FOM might even consider renting Silverstone, and themselves act as themselves in order to keep the event on the F1 calendar. It is due to meet with its current line-up of race promoters in London next Wednesday to outline its plans for the future of the sport.