Hill stays calm as Silverstone future hangs in balance

BRDC president urges patience as grand prix venue awaits Ecclestone decision
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The Independent Online

Damon Hill believes patience is the keyto Silverstone securing the long-term future of the British Grand Prix. Hill, the British Racing Drivers' Club president, was part of a three-strong Silverstone delegation in Abu Dhabi last weekend hopeful of concluding a deal with the Formula One rights holder Bernie Ecclestone.

Ecclestone, who turned 79 last Wednesday, met the Silverstone Holdings chairman Neil England and the managing director Richard Phillips. However, although hopes were high after Donington Park's bid fell by the wayside, no agreement was reached and negotiations remain ongoing.

Hill concedes the spectacle of the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was hardly the ideal backdrop to conducting talks. But he added: "The groundwork has been done and it's best to see what evolves now.

"There was a lot of excitement when the opportunity came back and Bernie said he was prepared to discuss the situation. We did go over to Abu Dhabi to try and get a deal done, but the distraction of the weekend meant it was not the right time.... So we'll let the dust settle and see what happens over the next week or so."

Time is important though as Silverstone would ordinarily have enjoyed more than four months of ticket-selling by now.

Hill knows from experience, however, that Ecclestone cannot be rushed. "It will be a shame if Bernie does let it drag on," added the 1996 world champion. "As a business Silverstone has kept itself primed and expecting to look to a renewal of its grand prix contract."

Michael Schumacher's abortive decision to return to Formula One last season as a replacement for the injured Felipe Massa was "emotional, not rational", the seven-times world champion admitted yesterday.

Massa sustained serious head injuries in qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix in July and missed the rest of the season leaving a vacant seat in the Ferrari team. Schumacher, who retiredin 2006, was ultimately unable to take up the drive because of a neck injury.

"It wasn't really a rational decision, it was an emotional decision," the 40-year-old told reporters at the Bird's Nest stadium, where he was taking part in the Race of Champions tournament.

Schumacher said he had made his decision after a discussion with the Ferrari manager Luca Di Montezemolo. "Having the meeting with him [Di Montezemolo] I looked at all the points, in particular that it was Felipe, who is like a brother to me," said the German.