Hill: Silverstone’s F1 future on a knife edge

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarThursday, June 26th, 2008

 
 

Damon Hill has rated the chances of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone remaining a fixture on the F1 calendar at 50 per cent.

Hill is president of the British Racing Drivers’ Club, the organisation that owns Silverstone, organises the race and is in the middle of negotiating a £30 million redevelopment package designed to bring the much-loved but somewhat traditional circuit into the 21st century.

He said that he was not discounting Donington Park as a venue after recent news that F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone was talking to that circuit’s management: “I would say 50/50 was probably about right. I am not going to assume anything when it comes to F1.

“My experience is you should never make some presumptions, so it would be prudent to consider it a 50/50 figure. But, I am 100 per cent confident that we have got what it will take and we can deliver what F1 will be proud of, and the UK will be proud of.

“I liken it to the Aladdin’s cave: the genie says give me the lamp and Aladdin says get me out of the cave and I’ll give you the lamp. You’re in this constant cyclical thing whereby in order to get our plans implemented we need to have a Grand Prix contract and in order to get the Grand Prix contract we have to have our planning.”

But he said he felt the circles were “getting smaller” and that the negotiations seemed to be moving into a more conclusive phase.

“We’re definitely making progress. We’ve got the planning consent for our pit and paddock complex. It’s one step at a time; the negotiations typically will be ongoing and I expect won’t come to a conclusion until the final hour, whenever that is.

“If we’re going to fulfil the building requirements then ideally we have to get going on it before the end of this year. So it’s situation normal.”

His words follow the news that the Donington Park circuit management is negotiating with Bernie Ecclestone over the possibility of staging future races there.

However, it is arguable how serious a contender the Leicestershire circuit really is, since its facilities are not currently conspicuously better than its Northamptonshire cousin, and it does not already have the planning green light for a major revamp.

So exactly where else would Bernie go? Brands Hatch, in Kent and the current British home of A1GP, might be a more credible proposition and last hosted the race in 1985.

But corporate wrangling and planning problems, not to mention strict noise limits designed to protect the sensibilities of residents on a nearby housing estate, means no-one seems to be taking that idea very seriously either.

The choices seem to be Silverstone or cancellation. Government funding for the event seems a distant possibility in the current political climate while the consequences for Ecclestone of moving Formula One from one of its most historic venues might also be quite steep.

Result: stalemate. Watch this space.

Read a fuller Q&A with Damon Hill on the ITV F1 website >>

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