Formula One will celebrate a 1000th grand prix in 2019, so it was perhaps no surprise that fans and media speculated that the calendar may be changed to ensure the milestone race takes place at Silverstone, the legendary track that hosted the very first GP way back in 1950.
F1 bosses gave the idea serious consideration, as Silverstone is part of the DNA of the sport, and a memorable weekend in the UK would provide an excellent bookend to the first, albeit very long, chapter in F1 history. The British Grand Prix usually takes center stage in the balmy climes of mid-July and continues to be a hugely popular race with drivers such as Lewis Hamilton and the thousands of fans that attend every year. Moving the date forward in 2019 would have increased anticipation levels and excitement for the GP further.
Renault Sports’ race team coordinator Geoff Simmonds offers a few reasons why Silverstone is so special to fans, especially those that have been following the sport for decades. He said: “It’s always great being at Silverstone, because it feels like home. It also happens to be where I went to watch my first grand prix, in 1973, with my Dad. For me, and for many others, it has a sentimental magic that is unmatched by other racetracks around the globe.” It is a viewpoint that is shared by many.
However, despite those sentiments, F1 confirmed earlier this month that a decision had been made to host the race elsewhere. Brits love to complain about the weather, so it is perhaps fitting that one of the major reasons why the 1000th race won’t take place at Silverstone is the less than stellar climate during early spring. F1 managing director Sean Bratches said: “Silverstone was the first grand prix and we would have liked to see the 1,000th go back to the first. I think there’s a nice story and a nice harmony there. But when I was told, being a relatively new Brit, that the weather is sub-optimal in April, they warded me off that quickly.”
Fans will remember that a British Grand Prix has taken place in April before, but that rather damp and squalid occasion probably factored in the decision to hold the event elsewhere. The decision to opt for China suggests F1 is more concerned with looking forward than back as it continues its attempts to reinvigorate the sport and enter new markets.
Bratches touches on a similar theme, where he admitted that attracting new audiences is necessary if F1 is to thrive and remain relevant in the coming years. Appealing to Asian markets is therefore a must, and what better way to engage with potentially billions of new fans than hold the showpiece 1,000th race in China, a country that is increasingly eager to look outwards and embrace Western tech, customers and sports.
“We’ve spent a lot of time on this topic and looking at different circumstances, weather patterns. China is a great place to race. It’s part of our future and we’re excited about going there for that particular race,” Bratches added. The good news for Silverstone fans is that the milestone race will be a general theme for the entirety of the 2019 season, so there is likely to be a few celebrations for F1’s illustrious past, of which the UK track and the likes of Monaco, Spa and Monza have been such a significant part of during the last 70 years.
In the end, it was perhaps too much of a gamble for bosses, as they didn’t want the 1000th race to play out against a backdrop of sleet and rain. Silverstone would still make an excellent choice for the grand prix though, and fans will harbor hopes that those at the head of the sport could have a relatively late change of heart. That turn of events appears unlikely though, and UK residents can perhaps console themselves that a host of other high quality circuits have also missed out on the big occasion.
The 2019 season is still quite a way off too. For punters betting on Formula One at Stakers.com, the focus is on the Monaco Grand Prix, where Hamilton will be aiming to extend his lead at the top of the standings. This year’s British Grand Prix is also on the horizon.
A fairytale 1000th race wasn’t to be then, but Silverstone will remain the heart and soul of the sport, even if warmer, newer countries and tracks are the focus moving forward.