Richard Phillips has revealed that he is 'hopeful' of Silverstone retaining the British Grand Prix in 2010, believes a 'longer-term' deal can be struck and hopes to have confirmation in a matter of weeks – as he suggested Donington Park is still a long way short of being ready to hold the prestigious event.
Last summer, Simon Gillett's Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd (DVLL) company was awarded a ten-year contract to play host to the blue riband
meeting on the UK motorsport calendar from next year onwards by F1 commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone, but preparations have been bedevilled by setbacks ranging from concerns over funding to delays in planning permission, legal threats and the departure of Gillett's business partner Lee Gill back in September.
Gillett has always been adamant that the race will
go ahead at the beleaguered Leicestershire venue, but having spent some time there over the course of the British round on the MotoGP calendar at the weekend, Silverstone Circuits Ltd managing director Phillips is far from as convinced.
Add to that Ecclestone's recent rapprochement with the celebrated 'Home of British Motor Racing' and its owners the British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC) – of which the 78-year-old is himself a member – and the Formula One Management (FOM) chief executive's admission that despite his persistent protestations to the contrary, Silverstone could
yet be granted a reprieve and continue to stage the event it has held on 43 occasions to-date – and Phillips is buoyant about the track's prospects.
“We're still very hopeful that we'll have a race in 2010,” he told Crash.net Radio
. “I think that seems to be on the cards, but nothing is ever done until the ink is dry. I was up at Donington yesterday, and I think they've got a lot of work to do to get ready for a proper race in 2010.
“We're hopeful, and maybe there's a chance for us to get a longer-term contract. Certainly, I think Silverstone is well up to the task, it's ready to go, we're spending money on it, we've got plans over the coming years and we've got new pits and other things to build. It would be great to have [the British Grand Prix] back here. When we're going to find out is another matter, but I would hope within the coming weeks.”
“I think Bernie is pretty committed to having a British race,” he added. “The three original grands prix were held at Monaco, Silverstone and Monza. From a heritage point-of-view and a groundswell of opinion point-of-view, it's going to be difficult [to not have a British Grand Prix on the schedule].
“The relationship we have working on the ground with Bernie is quite good – there aren't many cross words! We've been talking about possible dates and have been in discussions with them (FOM).
“We started planning three months ago for F1 2010. I do agree that we could improve our facilities, and we are doing so. We should be leading the sport in the UK. I think we can do it better [than Donington] regarding access, but we're not perfect. We can never rest on our laurels.”TO LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW IN FULL: CLICK HERE