F1 Departure Will Test Silverstone Business Park’s Appeal
The Formula One British Grand Prix might not take place at the famous Silverstone circuit after 2019, in a move that will likely have a big knock-on effect for a huge U.K. business park.
The British Racing Drivers Club, which owns the race track, has exercised a break clause, which means that unless a new agreement can be reached with Liberty Media, Formula One’s new owner, 2019 will be the last time the race takes place at Silverstone, where the first-ever Grand Prix was staged in 1950.
The BDRC said the cost of hosting the event each year was becoming prohibitive. The terms of its contract mean the fee it pays to host the race each year rises.
With no other suitable venue in Britain, there could be no British Grand Prix for the first time since the world championship was set up in 1950.
But the move would also have big implications for property company MEPC, which is owned by Hermés, the investment arm of British Telecom’s pension scheme.
In 2013 it paid £32M for a 999-year lease on the 131-acre Silverstone Park business and science park, which is next to and surrounds part of the track.
MEPC has drawn on the Silverstone Grand Prix brand and the fact that motorsport and engineering companies want to be close to the heart of British motor racing to attract occupiers.
At the time of the purchase MEPC Chairman Chris Taylor called it an “opportunity to create a large, commanding commercial estate with a key technology driver which will benefit hugely from its location, infrastructure and association with the home of world motor racing at Silverstone”.
MEPC has said it wants to turn Silverstone Park into a cluster of high-tech and motorsport engineering businesses. It has backed the creation of an organisation called the Silverstone Technology Cluster, which looks to connect businesses in the space within a one-hour radius of Silverstone, including matching startups with funding.
And it has been successful in its aims. It has increased the number of companies in the park from 50 when it bought the scheme to 70. It built a 125K SF speculative unit that was successful enough to spur it to seek planning consent for 2M SF of further development on the site, which was granted in June. Occupiers including Porsche have increased their presence on the site in the past four years.
Occupiers are not just from the motorsport and motoring world but a broad range including aerospace, automotive, defence, marine and medical. The departure of F1 from Silverstone would remove a key plank of the park’s brand and appeal to motoring occupiers in general.
MEPC spokeswoman Roz Bird was not immediately available for comment, but she told the BBC, “Obviously it would be great to continue to have the Grand Prix here and I’m sure Liberty Media would want to continue with that because Silverstone is a fantastic brand. Our companies that are here, when you ask them how important the brand is, they love to be associated with Silverstone.”
MEPC has done what all business park owners are trying to do and created a cluster of businesses in the growing technology sector. To continue to make its asset grow it might have to do this without one of its biggest draws.