Q & A with Damon Hill
|By Edd Straw||Wednesday, June 17th 2009, 16:27 GMT|
Q. Could this year's British Grand Prix be Silverstone's last ever?
Damon Hill: Things change rapidly, and I don't think we're discounting the possibility that it could be back at some point.
Q. What is the circuit doing now?
DH: We're carrying on with development and the future of Silverstone. The BRDC still owns Silverstone, and Silverstone has a very strong link with grand prix racing but it's not the only thing that happens here. it's a big venue with a lot of activity and we are pressing ahead to carry on developing it.
Q. Could you get the race back?
DH: There is doubt over whether or not Donington are going to overcome their difficulties. We need a fallback position.
Q. What if the race doesn't come back to Silverstone?
DH: The British Grand Prix is a crucial part of the mix of F1, the history of F1, and no doubt you can argue that no-one is indispensable. But the British Grand Prix is part of that and likewise Silverstone.
History is very important. It's very important to keep up to speed and to fight for your right to be there. It's also part of something which is of immeasurable value to the championship, the history of the sport. Nostalgia is looking back wistfully, but it is also the key ingredient which makes something more valuable in the future because it has a history. Continuity of the sport is its value.
I would never be against trying to export F1 or motorsport around the world. I think it's a terrific sport provided the economy can support it and people are able to enjoy it safely. It's a sport which has got a lot of other attractions to it. It galvanises people and it's great that it happens in other places. But it's not good to have an event where there isn't a packed crowd of people who are knowledgeable about sport - that's why football is so strong in this country..
Q. Why has Silverstone lost the British Grand Prix?
DH: There has been enormous pressure to develop Silverstone to the standard that Bernie wants, and he wants the venue which represents in his view modernity and cutting edge design and he wants Terminal 5. He wants something terrific. And we're not saying we don't want that. But this is a business as well and it has to survive, but without significant government underwriting it can't take a risk that would be irresponsible.
There is an ambition within the sport particularly with Bernie and Max to be recognised in a similar fashion to the Olympics. And that means that the government would be buying it. You could ask yourself whether it's in their interest to have a commercial project succeed in this country.
Q. What are your thoughts on Donington Park's progress?
DH: The development had some backers pull out - I don't really know the details. But there are definitely concerns as to whether or not the Donington project is viable. Not simply from the point of view of whether it can afford the contract year on year but whether or not the team there fully understands what running a major sporting event entails. We at Silverstone do.
Q. What are your thoughts on government backing for the British Grand Prix?
DH: They have made it clear that they cannot provide taxpayers money to this event and I completely understand why. It's regarded as being a company and that's correct – it should be. It's a company and a private business and that's where there's a tension.
There's a huge problem in the minds of the British taxpayer for providing funding for an event which is not only about being wealthy. It's projected as a luxury sport and it's owned by a private equity company. So on what grounds
The grounds are that the sport provides a benefit to the country, but the country provided the benefit in the first place by creating an environment in which those businesses could flourish. The BRDC wants to have the British Grand Prix – and if it takes place at Donington then terrific, but we have our concerns.