Picture: Andrew Winning / Reuters.

Milton Keynes, England - Silverstone's departure from the Formula One calendar would be a "shocking loss" but it could clear the way for a street race in London, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said on Tuesday.

The capital is hosting a big Formula One promotional event on Wednesday, ahead of the weekend's British Grand Prix at Silverstone, and the sport has long dreamed of racing there.

A decision by the British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC) on Tuesday to activate a break clause in Silverstone's contract has revived such talk, however fanciful it may sound to many observers.

"Silverstone is a wonderful track. The teams and the drivers love driving there and (F1 owners) Liberty (Media) has made a commitment that there will be a British Grand Prix," Horner told reporters at the Red Bull factory.

"But with this London event happening tomorrow, if that was a success - which hopefully it should be - one can imagine a London Grand Prix being pretty attractive to the Liberty guys.

"It would not be difficult to imagine Liberty thinking 'why don’t we do a street race in the capital?'". 

But is it actually feasible?

John Grant, the BRDC chairman, dismissed that idea.

"Most informed observers would say a London event is just not feasible - politically, environmentally or commercially," he told Reuters.

Silverstone, a former World War Two airfield, hosted the first world championship grand prix in 1950 and with Monza, Monaco and Spa forms part of a core group of historic tracks.

Brands Hatch, Aintree and Donington Park have also hosted F1 in Britain but only Silverstone now has the necessary infrastructure.

Horner, who is a member of the BRDC without playing an active role, said the body had clearly got its maths wrong when it signed the original deal with former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone and further mistakes were made along the way.

"They spent a fortune on the pits and they put them in the wrong place," he said.

"They have created a paddock with zero atmosphere at one of the most historic race tracks in the UK, so there has been some serious misjudgement and management one would say."

Silverstone's future has long been clouded, with Ecclestone regularly berating the BRDC in the past, but Horner expressed amazement that a contract that was secured with so much sweat had been broken.

"It would be shocking to lose Silverstone from the calendar, It would be even more shocking to lose a British GP when you consider 80 percent of the teams are based within the UK and how much the UK contributes to Formula One," he said. 

Silverstone not alone in F1 cost struggles

Silverstone is unlikely to be alone among European circuits in deciding it can no longer afford to host Formula One without a better deal, Grant added.

"It’s reasonable to assume we generate more revenue than any other European grand prix and we still can’t make the numbers work," he said on Tuesday after announcing that the BRDC-owned British Grand Prix circuit was breaking its contract.

The decision means Britain risks having no race after 2019 unless a revised deal is agreed.

"We believe that we run the event quite efficiently and our costs of delivery we think are low," added Grant. "So the economics of the other European circuits must be equally challenging.

"I’m sure they are asking themselves the same sort of questions that we are asking."

Germany's Hockenheim, which returns to the calendar in 2018 after a year's absence, has struggled financially while Belgium's Spa track and Italy's Monza have also had difficulties.

Grant said Silverstone lost 2.8 million pounds (R48.2m) in 2015, 4.8 million (R82.6m) in 2016 and faced a similar loss from this weekend's race.

He blamed the ever-increasing hosting fees for the situation.

"The cost of running the event is actually quite small relative to the amount of money it generates. The thing that puts the cost up is the promoter’s fee that we have to pay," he told Reuters.

Why is it so expensive?

Formula One's business model under former supremo Bernie Ecclestone was heavily based on annually escalating hosting fees and television revenues.

The sport's new owner, US-based Liberty Media, has said it wants to safeguard the traditional European races but Silverstone's move will be seen as a test of that.

Grant said the promoter's fee for hosting the British Grand Prix increased by five percent annually, growing from 11.5 million pounds (R198m) in 2010 to 16.2 million (R279m) this year. By the final year in 2026, it would be 25 million pounds (R430.5m).

That is still a lot less than places like Baku, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi, which can count on state funds and attract far smaller crowds, have to pay.

Last year's race, a home grand prix for triple world champion Lewis Hamilton and seven of the 10 teams, attracted 139 000 people on the Sunday but Grant said only about 100 000 were paying ticket holders.

McLaren executive director Zak Brown has said Liberty should buy Silverstone to secure the race's future but Grant said the BRDC had a duty to fulfil.

"We see ourselves as the guardians of British motorsport... so we feel that having the BRDC retain ownership of Silverstone helps to achieve that long-term objective," he said.

"Selling Silverstone is not actually on our agenda at this moment."

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