Will we keep the British GP?

Guest column – Sir Jackie Stewart

It’s been more than six months since Sir Jackie Stewart resigned as president of the BRDC. Motor Sport asked him for his thoughts about the Club and the British GP. Here are his comments…

Since announcing that I was going to stand down as BRDC president I’ve stayed away from any involvement. I occasionally get phone calls, some from board members, but really only for observations and maybe access to certain opportunities. So I haven’t really discussed anything until now.

However, I do still think that the joint venture proposal was the correct way to go. Risk matters to a private members club; it’s like being a trustee for some organisation. You’ve got to be very careful that you don’t speculate and lose the financial currency that this club or individual may have. 

So the joint venture was the right thing, and I think more people are beginning to realise that now. Unfortunately, a minority lacked confidence in the board. It’s very easy for someone to criticise when they haven’t been involved. 

There is always a small but vocal minority who seem to want to find ways of not doing things, being critical rather than being positive and being achievers. For the people who get things done, that’s always quite frustrating. But you’ve got to understand that you’re serving a club full of members.

For the benefits involved, the BRDC has very low subscriptions. People who have been racing drivers are invited to be part of our Club – we don’t promote sales of membership. They’ve become used to those benefits and don’t want to see them diminished, even though there are financial concerns about sustaining them. So it’s a balancing act, like crossing a river on a very small piece of wood, to get it right. 

When the contract for the British GP was for an amount of money that allowed a profit to be made, that profit was put back into the Club. One of the things they built was the clubhouse – well before my time. They’ve been criticised for that, but our Club should be proud of it, because before it was a modest brick and wood building that would have been way out of place in a modern F1 facility. 

The silent minority are just pleased to be members, pleased to have the facilities and benefits, and want to keep the British GP in this country, but not at any cost. Everyone would like to see new pit and paddock facilities, but that still doesn’t help the general public, the man or woman on the street who wants to come and see a grand prix. It serves a group of people for their own comfort and convenience, while not adding anything to the opportunity of raising the attendance figures of the grand prix. And we can’t do that. 

The promoter at the present time is left naked financially. He only gets the benefits of the public attendance. You don’t have to be Einstein to work out that you can’t make improvements from no revenues. We spent a lot of money on the circuit, on safety and so on. But then we were making actual profit, and profit has to happen.

Unless there’s a new alignment of the financial arrangements in the sport, there’s very little chance that we can keep the grand prix and meet the demands for facilities. It’s easy to say that they can be met in India or Mexico, but like in China and Bahrain, it won’t be private enterprise that will be doing it. If that’s what we’re competing against, we can’t have a grand prix. I hope that’s not the case.