British GP Will Survive, Says Williams

The British Grand Prix will survive despite Bernie Ecclestone's barbed comments about Silverstone, Formula One team boss Frank Williams said today.

British GP Will Survive, Says Williams

The British Grand Prix will survive despite Bernie Ecclestone's barbed comments about Silverstone, Formula One team boss Frank Williams said today.

Ecclestone said at the weekend that the circuit was an embarrassment and accused the owners of wasting funds earmarked for development.

"I hope it doesn't happen, but we don't have to have a race in Britain," he said.

However, Williams is optimistic that the British Grand Prix will retain its spot on the motor racing calendar.

"I think we will survive. Once all the modifications are complete it can be as proud as any other circuit of its facility," he told reporters after a briefing organised by Silverstone's owners to showcase improvements.

Williams, whose team's first win was at Silverstone with Switzerland's Clay Regazzoni in 1979, saw Ecclestone's comments more as an attempt to apply pressure than an intent to kill off the birthplace of Formula One.

"Bernie is an enigma and it's impossible to second-guess where he's trying to go," added Williams. "I know he foresees a very over-populated calendar and I think he's putting the squeeze on a number of races to see who may be the most vulnerable."

Williams said Silverstone, which hosted the very first Formula One race in 1950, was a great event and part of the sport's fabric.

"I think he's putting pressure on the circuit to rush through all its changes and plans, I suspect that's where he's coming from. I know Bernie modestly well, he is an Englishman through and through. Never forget that. So I'd imagine it's just pressure rather than a firm committed intent to remove it.

"He has the power to do it (remove Britain from the calendar). He could do it, there is a chance. I can't calculate how much of a chance or whether it is real."

Master Plan

Former World Champion Jackie Stewart outlined the latest developments, showing off a master plan to refurbish Silverstone by 2005. The original plans, unveiled two years ago, were for that to happen by this year.

New car parks, signs and toilet blocks have been erected and 900,000 pounds ($1.50 million) spent on a new road bridge inside the circuit. But the old pits and media centre remain.

Williams agreed that toilets would not sell tickets as fast as British fans having another World Champion of their own to applaud.

"It's very true and if you could find one I'd pay you a million quid (pounds) for him," he said.

"There are 50 world champions in China riding bicycles right now and we'll never find them. There are probably quite a few in the UK. They are around but they haven't got any money, probably.

"Many of them are just like flowers, they just don't make it to the sunshine."

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