British GP future uncertain as Silverstone trigger break clause in contract

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2019 will be the last year of the race unless a new deal is brokered with Liberty Media.

The British Grand Prix faces extinction from the Formula One calendar after Silverstone’s owners triggered a break clause in its contract on Tuesday.

The British Racing Drviers’ Club, which owns the Northamptonshire circuit, gave notice of its intent to leave its current deal in two years’ time.

Its decision means 2019 will be the last year for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone unless a new deal is brokered with F1’s American owners Liberty Media.

Nearly 140,000 spectators watched triple world champion Lewis Hamilton claim his third consecutive win at Silverstone last year.

And a near sell-out crowd is expected again this weekend as Hamilton bids to reduce rival Sebastian Vettel’s 20-point lead at the summit of the championship.

But the demands of the hosting fee which goes up by five per cent every year – from £12million in 2010, the year in which the new long-term deal started, to £16m this season and £25m in 2026 – is crippling Silverstone.

Liberty Media has staged a series of talks with both the BRDC and Silverstone.

But while Silverstone wants to continue its relationship with Formula One, it will not do so at the cost of financial ruin.

The Northamptonshire circuit, unlike many other tracks on the F1 calendar, receives no government backing.

“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 sustained losses of £2.8m in 2015 and £4.8m in 2016, and we expect to lose a similar amount this year.

“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.

“However, I want to be clear that although we have now activated the break clause, we are fully supportive of the changes the Liberty team are making to improve the F1 experience.

“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.”

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Bottas can make title tussle a three-horse race and four other things we learned from the Austrian GP

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Winner: Valtteri Bottas.

Valtteri Bottas took the second Formula One victory of his career as the Mercedes driver held off Sebastian Vettel’s  Ferrari to win the Austrian Grand Prix.

Here, Press Association Sport takes a look at the five things we learned from Sunday’s race.

Bottas can make title tussle a three-horse race

All the talk heading to Speilberg surrounded Vettel and Lewis Hamilton and their battle for the world championship.

The controversy over Vettel’s decision to deliberately drive into the side of Hamilton’s Mercedes in Baku also meant the spotlight was on the pair as the F1 circus rolled into Austria.

But Bottas, the quiet, reserved Finn, stuck his Mercedes on pole with a blistering qualifying lap before almost defying human physics to get the perfect start to the race.

He held off a late push from Vettel to take his second win of the year, closing to within 35 points of the Ferrari driver in the championship standings, with Hamilton now only 15 points clear of his team-mate.

Valtteri Bottas.

Valtteri Bottas.

Hamilton needs some home comforts

The future of the British Grand Prix is reportedly hanging in the balance ahead of the weekend’s race at Silverstone.

Speculation suggests the circuit will announce this week it is executing an option to end the contract to host the event due to spiralling costs.

Whether or not this is the last race at the Northamptonshire track for some time, Hamilton needs an inspired drive to change his luck and get his title tilt back in full swing.

The three-time champion finished fourth in Austria and has only had one podium finish in the past four grands prix.

That win in Canada was proceeded by a seventh-placed finish in Monaco, with fifth the best he could manage in Baku after a loose headrest cost him an almost-certain victory.

A gearbox penalty, brake-disc failure and a poor qualifying lap meant he had a weekend of damage limitation at the Red Bull Ring but he needs so much more than that as he aims for a fifth British Grand Prix win.

Lewis Hamilton.

Lewis Hamilton.

Driver penalties need to be addressed

The fact Vettel escaped further reprimands for driving into the side of Hamilton in protest against what he considered dangerous braking behind the safety car in Baku was the focus at the start of the race weekend.

It was brought into the light again on Friday evening when Hamilton was hit with a penalty of his own for requiring an unscheduled change on his gearbox.

That severely hampered his hopes of winning here and showed that punishing drivers for technical problems may not be the way to operate moving forward.

Former driver Mark Webber, two-time world champion Fernando Alonso and Mercedes director Toto Wolff all voiced that opinion to differing degrees in the last week and it certainly ruined the possibility of Hamilton and Vettel resuming their on-track battle immediately in Sunday’s race.

Hamilton received a five place grid penalty for a gearbox change.

Hamilton received a five place grid penalty for a gearbox change.

Verstappen’s luck is well and truly out

Max Verstappen had high hopes and plenty of expectation on his shoulders heading into the home race for his Red Bull team.

Instead he suffered a poor start, was bogged down and rammed out of the race after being caught up in Alonso’s spin with the Spaniard having been shunted by Daniil Kvyat.

That meant thousands of Dutch supporters left disappointed and that their hero Verstappen has now retired from five of the last seven races, leaving him frustrated to say the least.

His annoyances with ongoing bad luck will only have been heightened by the fact his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo has been racking up podiums while he stews in the paddock.

Five successive podiums, four third-places and a win in Baku mean the Australian is now 62 points clear of Verstappen.

Max Verstappen.

Max Verstappen.

Not every race can be like Baku

Other than Bottas’ superb start and a couple of shunts at the start, plus the final two laps of tension as Vettel and Hamilton closed down their prey before ultimately coming up short, the Austrian Grand Prix was largely forgettable.

That is in stark contrast to the Azerbaijan race two weeks prior, which contained controversy, safety cars, penalties and memorable moments.

Finding the right blend of constant entertainment remains one of the biggest challenges for the sport’s new owners Liberty Media and hopefully Silverstone will be more like the relative chaos of Baku as opposed to the somewhat uneventful race in Austria.

Bottas leads the field during the Austrian Grand Prix.

Bottas leads the field during the Austrian Grand Prix.

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Bottas holds off Vettel to win Austrian Grand Prix

Valtteri Bottas roared to the second victory of his career on Sunday when he won the Austrian Grand Prix for Mercedes ahead of championship leader Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari.

The Finn, in his first season with Mercedes after replacing 2016 champion Nico Rosberg, came home 0.658 seconds clear of Vettel who increased his lead ahead of Lewis Hamilton in the drivers championship to 20 points.

Hamilton, in the second Mercedes, did his utmost to grab a podium finish after starting from eighth on the grid, but had to settle for fourth behind Australian Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull.

For Ricciardo, on his team's 'home' Red Bull Ring circuit, it was a fifth consecutive podium finish and the 22nd of his career. Vettel now leads the drivers championship with 171 points ahead of Hamilton on 151 and Bottas on 136, while in the constructors title race Mercedes lead with 287 ahead of Ferrari on 254. What did you make of the action in Austria? Share with us your thoughts by commenting below, using Twitter or getting in touch via Facebook.

DRIVER OF THE DAY

Valtteri Bottas produced an inspirational performance to win his second F1 race after 87 attempts. Starting on pole, the Finn managed his race perfectly and never looked in doubt on his ultra soft tyres. With Sebastian Vettel breathing down his neck on the final frenetic laps, Bottas stayed composed to seal a fifth win for Mercedes this season.

FASTEST LAP

Lewis Hamilton had a mixed weekend in Austria after topping the timesheets in both FP1 and FP2 on Friday. Despite finishing just outside a podium place in fourth, the three-time world champion clocked the fastest lap of 1:07.411 on lap 69. Daniel Ricciardo – who claimed a fifth successive podium - proved the second-fastest, with Kimi Raikkonen’s 1:07.486 on lap 68 coming in third as he tried to push Hamilton for fourth spot. Lewis Hamilton. Lewis Hamilton.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

Max Verstappen was forced to retire for the fifth time this season after a collision on the first lap caused by Daniil Kvyat. It was disappointing to see the Red Bull driver withdraw again, especially after starting fourth on the grid and looking like he could potentially fight for a podium place. Max Verstappen. Max Verstappen.

ONE TO WATCH

It was another scintillating performance from Lance Stroll as he rose from P18 to finish in 10th place. It’s the Canadian driver’s third time registering points this season after a stunning podium in Baku two weeks ago. Stroll was instrumental, overtaking Kevin Magnussen and Carlos Sainz to confirm his place in the points alongside teammate Felipe Massa who finished 9th. Lance Stroll. Lance Stroll.

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