Lewis Hamilton has put the pressure on Formula One’s owners Liberty Media to agree a new deal with Silverstone, insisting the sport cannot afford to walk away from the British Grand Prix.
Next month’s race is due to be the last staged at the Northamptonshire track unless a contract extension is agreed.
The race organisers had hoped to have a fresh deal in place at least a month before this year’s event. However, with just over a fortnight to go, talks remain ongoing.
It is understood that discussions have taken place this week, with an additional meeting pencilled in for after this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix.
Hamilton, who has won five times at Silverstone, will head into his home race on July 14 as the championship leader, regardless of what happens at the Red Bull Ring on Sunday.
“I truly believe Liberty have got to keep Formula One in the UK and particularly Silverstone,” said Hamilton.
“It is an awesome track, an awesome place, with one of the biggest attendances of the season. You can’t turn your back on that.
“There are some really awesome circuits and Silverstone is one of those. The UK is the foundation of what this sport is.
“If you take away the legendary races and you are left with only new ones, you lose all of the history and culture of what makes Formula One what it is.”
Ahead of the 2017 British Grand Prix, Silverstone triggered a break clause in its contract in the hope of negotiating a better deal amid escalating hosting costs.
It was a public move that did not sit well with Liberty, who were just seven months into their reign at the time.
Liberty are keen to expand the calendar from 21 to 25 races and take the sport to major cities.
Vietnam will stage a race for the first time next year on the streets of its capital city Hanoi, while Zandvoort, 25 miles outside of Amsterdam, is also returning to the calendar after a three-decade absence in 2020.
Silverstone has been an ever-present on the calendar since 1987, while the British Grand Prix has held a permanent slot since the sport’s inception 69 years ago.
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It’s not easy for anyone’s confidence when their future is called into question barely three months into their new job.
For most people it takes time to adapt to a new team environment, build confidence slowly and then thrive.
However, for Red Bull driver Pierre Gasly, rumours of a potential mid-season demotion have begun to emanate since the second round of the championship.
Although whispers calmed after promising displays in Barcelona and Monaco, his disappointing performance at the French Grand Prix on Sunday has cast his Red Bull future into question again.
Following his 10th-placed finish, rumours circulated around the paddock that the Milton Keynes outfit were looking at Daniil Kvyat or Alexander Albon to replace Gasly sooner rather than later, but Red Bull boss Christian Horner was quick to dismiss the speculation.
But, whether the team claim truth to the rumours or not, the temperature is increasing in Gasly’s sizzling hot seat.
It doesn’t take a motorsport fan to see he is struggling.
The 24-year-old has been out-qualified in seven of the eight races by team-mate Max Verstappen, and has yet to finish ahead of the Dutchman this campaign.
Verstappen is clearly a better driver, but for two men in the exact same car, one would expect closer results rather than staggering differences.
If we’re to look at qualifying this season, Gasly has an average start of 10.5 on the grid, making it through to Q3 on five occasions. On race day, he has recorded an average finish of 8.9, with his best result coming in the form of P5 in Monaco.
If he was in a Toro Rosso, we’d be nodding in approval at his formidable displays, but in a championship-contending car like the Red Bull, he should be on the fringes of top-five finishes most weeks instead of being beaten by McLaren, Haas or even Renault drivers.
In contrast, Verstappen has been impressive, crossing the chequered flag in an average position of 3.9 and starting race day in an average position of 4.8. He has also been on the podium twice. Certainly signs of a man who is getting the most out of the car.
For the third best team behind Mercedes and Ferrari, these results cannot continue and Gasly either needs to step up fast this weekend in Austria or risk being demoted.
Assuming Red Bull promote another driver to be Verstappen’s new team-mate, who would it be?
Albon looks the preferred option between him and Kvyat. The Great Britain-born Thai has taken almost the opposite path to Gasly in his maiden season, but the one perhaps he would have wished for.
To compare his first eight races at Toro Rosso to Gasly’s in 2018, Albon has had a more impressive start – averaging a qualifying position of 12.6 in contrast to the Frenchman’s 14.2. On race day, he averaged a 12.1 place finish in comparison to Gasly’s 13.6 average.
Gasly though did record a stunning P4 in Baku last year, while Albon’s best to date was P8 in Monaco.
The Rouen native is not a basket case by any means, but for whatever the reason may be, things are not clicking for him at Red Bull, and perhaps a demotion could be a good thing for his career and confidence.
It might sound crazy but if he can reset away from spotlight, the pressure of racing alongside Verstappen and the pressure of expecting significant results, then maybe he can rediscover who he actually is and what he wants to achieve going forward as a driver.
A season or two back at Toro Rosso, with improved results, will also put him in the shop window for a switch across to another team in future seasons.
Either way it doesn’t look like he will be a Red Bull driver next season.
Lewis Hamilton has called for Formula One’s next chief to come from outside of the sport, ruling his own boss out from taking the job for potentially being “biased” towards Mercedes.
Hamilton was deeply critical of how the sport is being run, describing it as a “mess” following his latest victory in a drab French Grand Prix.
The futures of Liberty Media’s American duo – F1 chief executive Chase Carey, and the sport’s commercial boss Sean Bratches – are unclear. Jean Todt, who rejuvenated Ferrari and oversaw Michael Schumacher’s run of dominance at the turn of the century, is serving what could be his final term as FIA president.
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff is thought to be under consideration by Liberty to lead F1 from 2021. The Austrian is this year on course to take the all-conquering Silver Arrows to an unprecedented sixth straight drivers’ and constructors’ double.
But Hamilton, who has credited Wolff for much of his recent success, said: “While I don’t believe there is a better manager than Toto within the whole of Formula One, we as humans can be biased.
“You have got Jean Todt. I know Jean is level but he was with the red team for so long. Surely, when he wakes up and there is a red shirt or a silver shirt, he probably goes for the red one.
“Just like when I see the number six [Nico Rosberg’s former race number], or the number 44, [Hamilton’s race number] I go for 44.
“Toto has been Mercedes through and through for such a long period of time.
“It would be best to get someone from outside who is neutral and doesn’t know about Ferrari for instance.”
Hamilton’s remarks arrived against the backdrop of a fans’ backlash following Sunday’s race which the Briton dominated from start to finish. The world champion has won six of the eight rounds this year. His Mercedes team are unbeaten.
The 34-year-old was in Paris last week for an emergency summit among the sport’s stakeholders. The meeting was called to determine how F1 will look when the current Concorde Agreement expires in 18 months.
It was decided that the terms of the new arrangement will be delayed until October with the 10 teams failing to reach consensus.
But Hamilton believes both F1 and the FIA, motor sport’s governing body, should take the decision-making process out of the teams’ hands.
“The way it is set up, just from watching when I was there in Paris, is not good,” added Hamilton. “It is really not good, and they will not like me saying that.
“The FIA are the governing body and they need to be making all the decisions. The teams shouldn’t be involved in that.
“The teams all want something for themselves. It would be the same in football – they would push and pull for their own benefit.
“But if you have a central group of people, like the FIA, their sole job with Liberty is to make the sport great again. They should just have the power, and they should make the decisions.”
However, Hamilton has raised doubts over the 2021 proposals. He said the cars should be lighter and more nimble, ensuring drivers can push to the limit.
The Briton added: “They are talking about the cars being heavier and that baffles me. The cars are already 130 kilograms heavier than when I first got into the sport.
“That would be worse for the brakes and the car. We would have to save more fuel.
“I have got to realise the position and responsibility I have as the (current) driver who has won the most world championships.
“I have been here a long time and for my legacy I would love to look back and say I was a part of helping that positive change for the fans who are watching Formula One.
“I don’t want to be a driver who just won titles, but one who actually cared about the sport.”
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