by Rob Wilkins


British Racing Drivers' Club president, Damon Hill has said that he is confident there will still be a British Grand Prix at Silverstone post-2009, when the current deal expires.

Speaking exclusively to Radio during a press call in London to 're-affirm the BRDC's commitment to keep the British Grand Prix' and update the media on the 'Master Plan' he added that while it would be daft to be complacent he is hopeful 'sense will prevail'.

"I am confident it [the British GP] will be there [on the calendar in 2010]," he noted. "I think everyone wants it - Formula 1 wants it. Sense will prevail and we will go forward.

"Silverstone is a great historical venue and there is a tremendous amount of support for motor racing and now that we have got a real world title contender, in Lewis Hamilton, Silverstone is a good venue for the grand prix so that people can come and celebrate British sporting success."

Asked how things are coming on with the 'Master Plan', the 1996 Formula 1 World champion insisted that progress is being made: "These things don't happen quickly though," he explained. "It is like anything, with the planning permission there has to be satisfaction and people have to be convinced. They have to be involved in the discussions and the decision making too and that is happening.

"We are now going to hopefully get planning permission to develop a new pit-paddock complex and at the very least upgrade Silverstone, so that it is always at the top end of facilities."

As for when things will start happening, Hill said that there should be action within the next few months.

"It will happen gradually over the grand prix - and past the coming British GP up until the end of this year. We will see progress made. There already is progress and a good feeling amongst the members that it is going in the right direction. But inevitably they do have a say and they will want to make sure we are doing the right thing," he continued.

"We cannot be putting the assets of Silverstone at risk, because other things happen at Silverstone other than the grand prix. There are other motor races that take place and it employs many people at Silverstone - there are nearly 200 odd people employed around Silverstone and many more beyond that. So, it has got other things other than the grand prix, although the grand prix is clearly a major ingredient and something historic that we want to keep."

Questioned on recent reports that there will be no government funding to help secure the British GP, despite renewed threats from F1 tsar, Bernie Ecclestone that the race could be axed, Hill rejected suggestions this was a blow.

"It is not a blow at all. They [the British government] have provided funding to develop the road network around Silverstone. We have had good help from the government over the years and they have done what they can to keep the British GP," he stated.

"Sports minister Richard Caborn came up and endorsed our plan to develop Silverstone [back in March]. We have in place some very diligent and professional people working on the development programme in the commercial department of Silverstone. So, it is all in hand and underway and I think it should go smoothly."

As for Ecclestone, who as the boss of Formula 1 will ultimately decide Silverstone's fate, Hill conceded that 'Mr E' had every right to be frustrated with the on-going situation with the British GP.

"I have a great deal of respect for Bernie. He is a genius at what he does. Sometimes he doesn't help, it is fair to say, and his style does make some people nervous. But we need to put what's happened in the past behind us. The BRDC wants to move on. He has seen the plans and now he wants to see action."




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