While acknowledging the potential threat from Donington Park as a venue for future British Grands Prix, former world champion Damon Hill said yesterday that Silverstone's chances of securing the race when its contact expires next year are no better than 50/50.
Even though the Northamptonshire track has ambitious plans to effect a £30 million redevelopment, and the rise of Lewis Hamilton has generated a sell-out for next week's running if the race, the British Racing Drivers' Club which owns the circuit and promotes the event are still unable to agree fresh terms with F1 commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone. The latter never misses a chance to belittle Silverstone, and said in Canada that Donington, in Leicester, is a possible venue even though it needs far more work to bring it up to the latest standards.
"My experience is you should never make some presumptions, so it would be prudent to consider it a 50/50 figure," Hill, the president of the BRDC, said. "But I am 100 per cent confident that we have got what it will take and we can deliver what F1 and the UK will be proud of."
A completely new pits and paddock structure has already been agreed with local planners, but negotiations with Ecclestone are likely to remain stalled until the revamp work actually begins.
"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," Hill said. "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.
"So it's going round in circles, but the circles are getting smaller and we're getting closer to the final stage. 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.
Hill said of Donington Park, "I would never discount any other option. It's the nature of this free market that there's always another option to go to and we have to compete, but I think we've got everything in place there to make us a very strong candidate for either investment or for Grand Prix contracts."