x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Silverstone owners bullish about track

The British Grand Prix venue will compete with Abu Dhabi for the best Formula One track in the world, the circuit's owners said today.

Silverstone can become the best Formula One track in the world, the circuit's owners said today. The managing director Richard Phillips said that the revamped circuit, which expects a 120,000-strong British Grand Prix crowd on Sunday, had qualities that had been built up over decades. Silverstone, a former World War Two airfield owned by the British Racing Drivers' Club, hosted Formula One's first championship race in 1950 and now has a 17-year deal for the country's grand prix.

Criticised in recent years by the sport's commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone for facilities that have fallen behind glittering state-funded venues in emerging economies like Abu Dhabi, Malaysia and China, the circuit has a major revamp under way. Phillips said a new pit complex was due to be finished by May next year and some £36-37 million (Dh200m) would have been spent on improvements and new buildings by the end of 2011.

"They (Abu Dhabi) build a hotel that lights up in different ways, and that's absolutely fantastic," he said. "But have we got a better circuit than they have? Yes, I think we have. Have we got better crowds, a better atmosphere? Yes. We've got all those things. "So we've got something that they will never have," added the Briton. "If we can absolutely perfect our track, and everything we do build is cutting edge and spectacular, then why wouldn't people think that we are the best in the world?"

Damon Hill, the 1996 world champion who is president of the BRDC, said the new layout for this year's race - necessitated by the return of motorcycle grands prix to Silverstone - had kept the historic flavour of the venue. "There are some lovely new corners," he said, later delivering a running commentary for reporters as he powered a Mercedes sportscar around the track with squealing tyres and scorched brakes.

"The new Abbey corner I think they (the drivers) are going to love and Farm is going to be really exciting. "It's retained its traditional high speed format and continues to evolve. And there are some really great new places to watch from," added the Briton. "You certainly can't recreate Silverstone somewhere else. New tracks are being built around the world...but it's a bit like a tree, it's grown out of this place, out of Europe. The great challenges for the drivers are what sells the sport. "You want to race at Monza, Monaco, Silverstone, Spa or Suzuka because you have seen great drivers on those circuits and you want to know how you compare." * Reuters