Q & A with Damon Hill

After weeks of uncertainty, the British Grand Prix secured its future on Monday, with Silverstone ready to host the race for the next 17 years

Q & A with Damon Hill

AUTOSPORT heard from BRDC president Damon Hill on the new deal.

Q. How important is this deal for the British motor racing industry?

Damon Hill: It is immeasurable. You cannot really put your finger on it.

The BRDC and Silverstone have been absolutely mindful of the effect of the British Grand Prix on the industry in this country, which placed it in a difficult situation because they also had to think of their obligations to their own property and their own business. So it had to be a deal that was doable.

It was a tough deal to fulfil, there is no question of that, but it is a commitment. And this is a point where we have moved into a new realm where we are committed to developing Silverstone and making big investments into the circuit for not just the benefit of Silverstone but for keeping the grand prix for the fans and the competitors.

Q. Were you always confident this deal would come off?

DH: No. I think it was too easy to assume that this would naturally fall into place. We have been through many twists and turns with the Donington Park episode and so forth, but it was never a done deal, it was never a foregone conclusion, and it was very important to make it clear that Silverstone had to sign up to a deal which was manageable and not something that was pie in the sky.

Q. When was the deal finally done?

DH: You mean how long have I been not telling you what is going on! I can honestly say that it could have changed at the last minute.

Q. So not much before the announcement of this press conference on Friday?

DH: Yes, we were pretty confident we had something something to say that was positive at that point.

Q. How was Bernie during the negotiations?

DH: I think he is very satisfied that the matter is finally concluded and that Silverstone has fulfilled his requests - I won't call them demands. He has always wanted Silverstone to play the game really, and you can respect that. When you look at the investment and commitment that is made by people in F1, all the teams - look at Ross Brawn and the level of risk that people are prepared to take - and even Bernie himself every day, then it is clear he wants the best for his product. If you look at it that way around then you can understand why he wants us to make that commitment.

Q. Is he investing himself in this product?

DH: Indirectly you could say, because he is absolutely entitled to go for the best price he can get, and he can get a better price elsewhere - so we are told. So without going into the absolute detail, Silverstone is getting a chance to show what it can do.

Q. The Times says Bernie has taken a 60 million pound hit on the deal. Is that right?

DH: I saw that, yes. We have been negotiating and there are clearly fine margins that we have been working on, so small differences make big differences over a 17-year contract.

Q. Is the 310 million pound estimate for the deal correct?

DH: I don't know where that figure came from. We can't discuss the detail anyway. If you extend anything over 17 years then that is nearly a mortgage, isn't it? It does look mind-blowing when you add it all up, but F1 - if you look back at its progression - it has been inextricable and we fervently hope it will be inextricable as well, that the sport will continue to grow and attract people.

After all, if you look at what it would cost you to have a season ticket at one of the top stadiums of the top football clubs in the UK, then it is still very affordable as a yearly event. It is not that out of reach to expect that, as we get better facilities, they will be prepared to pay higher prices for that.

Q. Do you think this is the end now to Bernie's annual threats to Silverstone?

DH: Bernie is a driven man and he always want better. I am sure he will be looking to keep us on our toes!

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