May 18 (GMM) Bernie Ecclestone has hailed the updated British grand prix venue but admitted it is "a great shame" the improvements were not made a decade ago.
Ecclestone, historically fiercely critical of the famous Northamptonshire circuit, attended the re-opening of Austria's A1-Ring last weekend but sent along his apologies as Silverstone's new 'Wing' complex was launched on Tuesday."I'm very sorry that I'm not here for this important occasion for the future of formula one and the future of Silverstone," he said in a statement read out for the press in his absence."It's a great shame it couldn't be completed ten years ago but well done," added Ecclestone.Last year, Silverstone installed a new loop and for July's race the start-line has been moved between the Club and Abbey corners, the location of a brand new triple storey pit and paddock complex."Bernie has acknowledged that Silverstone has come up to the requirement that he stipulated," said 1996 world champion Damon Hill, now the president of the Silverstone-owning British Racing Drivers' Club."So much of this is the way it is because it is the way Bernie wanted it," he added.Ecclestone's satisfaction means the new 17-year contract for the grand prix is now on track to being fully honoured, as the 80-year-old said the new complex is "the backbone of Silverstone's plans to be a world-class facility"."We'd like to have seen Bernie," admitted Hill. "We did invite him, and we were very excited when he accepted, but we understand that he's very busy."