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Page last updated at 13:59 GMT, Friday, 24 April 2009 14:59 UK

Hill backs Silverstone's GP bid

Damon Hill
I would very strongly argue that the most efficient way of retaining the Grand Prix is to look at the current infrastructure we have in place, which is Silverstone - that's a perfectly suitable venue as we stand today

Damon Hill

Silverstone should be in contention to keep the British Grand Prix if the proposed move to Donington in 2010 falls through, according to Damon Hill.

A legal row has put the move in doubt, though F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone says Silverstone will not keep the race.

But British Racing Drivers' Club president Hill told BBC Sport: "We'd like to have the Grand Prix at Silverstone if Donington can't do it.

"There has always been an open line of communication between us and Bernie."

Silverstone will host its final scheduled Formula 1 Grand Prix on 21 June after Ecclestone awarded the race to Donington Park as part of a new 10-year deal.

But concerns have emerged over the viability of Donington after Track owners Wheatcroft & Son Limited issued legal proceedings against the company leasing the track, Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd (DVLL).

Report - What future for the British GP?

Wheatcroft is seeking £2.47million in rent arrears from DVLL, headed by chief executive officer Simon Gillett, as well as forfeiture of the track lease - a 150-year deal secured in 2007.

Ecclestone has been a vocal critic of Silverstone, and on Thursday the 78-year-old insisted: "There is no question of us going back. They have had enough chances and have not delivered what they promised."

But Hill says the BRDC, who own Silverstone, has been in talks with Ecclestone and believes the race should continue to be staged at the Northamptonshire circuit.

"We've had communications, we've always tried to keep the door open," said the former world champion. "When the Donington move was announced, Bernie actually said it was a shame the government hadn't helped Silverstone.

"The issue is whether Formula 1 is the kind of event which merits government and taxpayers money.

"Bernie is very keen that Formula 1 should receive the same sort of treatment as the Olympics and football World Cup in terms of government support.

"Whether or not there is an investment in the British Grand Prix I think everyone is agreed that it is an important event and from our discussions with people in government they are very keen that it should be retained.

"I would very strongly argue that the most efficient way of retaining the Grand Prix is to look at the current infrastructure we have in place, which is Silverstone. That's a perfectly suitable venue as we stand today."

The possibility of the government putting up money to keep the sport in Britain looks remote however after a government spokesperson ruled out the idea on Thursday.

Simon Wilko BEng

"It would be a blow if the Grand Prix were not held in this country and we are going to do our very best to ensure that it will be," said Lord Davies of Oldham.

"We stand by to help, but not directly financially. The motor sport is an independent operation in this country, as most sports are.

"We don't want a state-sponsored motor racing industry but what is necessary is for the government to give assistance and support in judicious ways, in particular by emphasising how important we think the industry is."

Donington won the rights to host the British Grand Prix after Silverstone, hosts since 1987, stalled over signing a new deal and Gillett impressed Ecclestone with his plans for redeveloping the East Midlands venue.

Report - Donington preparing for F1 return

In January this year the green light was given to begin work on a £100m redevelopment to bring the venue up to standard.

Despite work beginning immediately the track was not granted a safety certificate by the Motor Sports Association, leading to the cancelling of a number of events.

Gillett was also set to confirm plans at the end of March for his debenture scheme, again to raise much-needed funds, but they have been put on hold.

Gillett has claimed the circuit will be ready in time for 2010 but Ecclestone recently stated that if Donington does not meet required standards to host the event there will be no British Grand Prix from next year.

"Bernie has taken the decision to go to Donington and now they have got into financial difficulties," said Hill. "You have to ask how that came to pass.

"Presumably he should have been sure that there were safeguards in place that Donnington were going to be able to afford to do what they were going to do.

"Silverstone are the losers in this because we had a contract and were in negotiations to try and keep the BGP. We've been working very hard to make sure we satisfy the demands within whatever limits we can.

"I'm very, very keen that the British Grand Prix is retained but it has to be done in the right way. The Donington Park venture has got a 10-year contract - if that keep the GP in the UK for 10 years then that's good for UK motorsport and the BRDC are 100% behind that.

"But is that the most efficient way of dealing with this? That's the big question."

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see also
Legal battle threatens British GP
24 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
British GP will move to Donington
04 Jul 08 |  Formula 1
Donington to bridge F1 gap
13 Feb 09 |  Formula 1
New Donington is granted approval
09 Jan 09 |  Formula 1
Donington Park pit plan revealed
10 Jul 08 |  Leicestershire
Donington owner rejects sceptics
11 Dec 08 |  Formula 1
Team bosses back Donington switch
05 Jul 08 |  Formula 1
Donington 'to be ready for 2010'
06 Jul 08 |  Formula 1
Ecclestone slams Silverstone
07 Jul 02 |  Formula One

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