Damon Hill finally hits out at Ecclestone

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarMonday, July 20th, 2009

 
 

In the whole saga of the future of the British Grand Prix Damon Hill, former F1 world champion and son of a F1 world champion, has been one of Silverstone’s greatest assets.

Even as Bernie Ecclestone teamed up with Donington promoter Simon Gillett, in an attempt to scupper the circuit’s 60th anniversary celebrations by announcing it had lost the race contract, he was calm and considered in front of the TV cameras, albeit visibly dreadfully upset by the news.

As the Donington bid to raise funds has lurched along from drama to crisis Hill’s tone has remained eminently reasonable. The door at Silverstone is open. We will step in if needed. The race is bigger than this.

This approach paid off in spades at this year’s Grand Prix when fans and the F1 establishment, belatedly in our opinion, threw their support behind the venue and said it would be a dreadful shame if their 2009 visit was the last F1 race held there.

And Ecclestone, beset with problems of his own, seemed to take this on board as a debenture scheme to fund Donington’s expansion that should have been launched in March had still failed to appear by the June race weekend.

Silverstone, he said, could step in and host the 2010 race if Donington wasn’t ready. Fans and drivers, who almost uniformly love the old place, gratefully received their few crumbs of comfort.

Silverstone management once again indicated it would be willing to stage the 2010 race, despite the problems caused to any promoter by not being able to put tickets on sale immediately.

And then came Bernie’s latest good idea – that the two venues should share the race.

Last week he told the Independent on Sunday: “If they don’t do it, Donington will get together with Silverstone. If Silverstone do all the things they promised me they are going to do, we are going to be at Silverstone.”

(The latest from Donington, incidentally? “We will discuss financial issues when we are ready and have nothing further to comment at this time.”)

Now, we’d rather see a race shared between the two venues than no race at Silverstone. But (as regular readers must be aware by now) what we really want is for the British GP just to be left alone where it works so well and where fans and drivers love to visit.

For the first time in this whole sorry saga, Damon Hill was less than perfectly polite. He told the paper: “I am not in favour of rotating it. I think it’s an insult.

“It’s another absurd step to try and squeeze as much profit and as much benefit for the commercial rights-holder. It’s not a long-term strategy.

“I’m in favour of the contract for the British Grand Prix being negotiated with Silverstone because I don’t believe that the Donington project is viable.”

God knows, Hill has more reason than most of us to feel impatient at the way this has played out.

What’s most amazing is that it’s taken him more than a year to show it.

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