Belfast Telegraph

Silverstone officials hope for Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button success to improve ticket sales for British Grand Prix

By Ian Parkes

Silverstone officials are keeping fingers crossed Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button can recapture the winning habit in a bid to ramp up ticket sales ahead of next month's British Grand Prix.

Race fever has yet to strike the great British public, with managing director Richard Phillips revealing the uptake for the event that runs from June 28-30 is down in comparison to last year.

Phillips believes people are wary given the atrocious weather that struck last July, forcing him to emotionally ask fans not to attend for qualifying to allow time for repairs to be carried out to sodden ground.

The fact reigning triple world champion Sebastian Vettel is also out in front again in this year's title race after the opening four races is not helping matters either.

"There are different factors that affect every event," said Phillips.

"With F1, we've a combination of what happened last year with the weather, and probably - controversially - you've Vettel doing a little too consistently well for us.

"So ticket sales are not as good as they were last year. They are not drastic, but they are down a bit, and we could do with some help."

Despite the conditions last year, Silverstone enjoyed a three-day crowd of 297,000, which included a record attendance for the race of 127,000.

For this year, the Hamilton and Button effect needs to play a role if such a figure is to be reached again.

Button has so far endured a woeful start for McLaren, claiming just 13 points as the Woking-based marque's car has been pitifully off the pace given the raft of changes made.

As for Hamilton, the 28-year-old's switch from McLaren to Mercedes has so far been successful given he has taken a pole position and two third places, but not enough to satisfy the fans it would seem.

With three races to go ahead of the British GP - in Spain, Monaco and Canada - British Racing Drivers' Club president Derek Warwick knows a victory for either would provide a lift.

"If Lewis and Jenson start winning from Barcelona - and we all know McLaren can turn around their car - that makes a massive difference for us," said Warwick.

"That's the hope for us."

Following the events of last year Phillips has admitted to "hundreds of thousands of pounds" having been spent to improve drainage around the Northamptonshire circuit to avoid a repeat of the chaos that took place.

"What happened last year was unprecedented because the 10 years prior to that we had reasonable weather conditions," said Phillips.

"But we can't rest on our laurels. Last year to us was a wake-up call so we have had to put a lot of measures in place and invest a lot of money to ensure people have a good time this year."

To ease congestion around Silverstone, for this year there will be a park and ride option on Friday ahead of the practice sessions, which has not previously been in place.

Silverstone has also expanded its service with MegaBus so a greater number of city centres around the country will provide transport.

For the first time on race day there will also be a special train service from London to Milton Keynes, supplemented by a bus from the latter into the circuit.

Behind the scenes Silverstone is still working on investment to aid its future, with the hope a deal will be concluded later this year.

The 'Master Plan', as it has been described, includes permission for hotels, business centres, debenture grandstands, industrial units and a kart centre.

With Silverstone not prepared to sell its soul, officials have had to end negotiations with too many potential investors they have discovered to be property investors.

Talks remain ongoing with a number of interested parties, with BRDC chairman Stuart Rolt conceding: "The investment process has been going on a long time, and it is pretty frustrating.

"Unfortunately we've had a recession, so land and investment in property outside of London is really tough because when we started off it was a different world.

"We're still negotiating with people, some from overseas, and we would like to get something done this year."

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