At bloody last. Silverstone’s Monday morning announcement that it had secured a contract to host the British Grand Prix for the next 10 years has uncorked a mass of fans desperate to finally book their race tickets.
After months of uncertainty, the tickets went on sale on the circuit’s website simultaneously with the press conference announcing the deal. And a 20 per cent discount for early bookings has meant that the venue shifted nearly 6,500 tickets by Tuesday morning, reportedly bringing in more than £1.2 million.
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This will come as a welcome boost to an event which has already lost five months of promotional time as well as having to compete with the world’s most popular sporting event – football’s World Cup. While the July 11 match will be played later than the race, it could still be a powerful factor in dissuading fans to buy event tickets on that day.
Silverstone’s managing director Richard Phillips says it intends to tackle the World Cup head on by holding a post-race party featuring giant TV screens so fans can watch the match at the circuit – an idea also floated by Donington promoter Simon Gillett while his circuit was still in the frame to stage it.
Phillips said that this had worked well at Silverstone in 2006, another year when ticket sales had been slow, and when the qualifying date of June 10 clashed with England’s first World Cup game against Paraguay.
He also told Autosport that July 4 2008, Friday practice for the race and a key date in Silverstone’s 60th anniversary celebrations, was “probably one of the worst days of my life to be honest, and it has been very difficult.”
On that day Bernie Ecclestone announced that Donington would be staging the race for the next 10 years, allowing him and Simon Gillett to hijack the weekend’s press coverage and utterly overshadow both the celebrations and the event.
Phillips added: “[Donington] did fall over, and I wish they had not done it the way they did it. I wish they had a circuit up there that was like the original circuit, because there was no real reason for them to kill the business.”