The thing I like about Damon Hill is that he manages to call a spade a spade without ever over-exaggerating for dramatic effect.

So when, as President of the British Racing Drivers Club, he admits that it is far from certain that the club will be able to conclude a deal with Bernie Ecclestone, the F1 commercial rights holder, to secure an extension of the British Grand Prix beyond 2009 then you are bound to listen. And listen hard. 

"I would say 50/50 was probably about right," Hill said last week, "I am not going to assume anything when it comes to Formula One. My experience is you should never make some presumptions, so it would be prudent to consider it a 50/50 figure. But, I am 100 per cent confident that we have got what it will take and we can deliver what F1 will be proud of, and the UK will be proud of."

Hill acknowledged that the talks were stuck in a state of limbo at the present moment - with a new commercial deal unlikely until the track redevelopment is started, and the track redevelopment unlikely to start until a commercial deal is sorted.

"I liken it to the Aladdin's cave: the genie says give me the lamp and Aladdin says get me out of the cave and I'll give you the lamp."

Rumours that Ecclestone wants to open negotiations with Donington Park as a possible alternative venue for the British GP prompt a flicker of a smile on Hill's familiar face. But he picks his words carefully, neatly side-stepping the issue and instead offering some observations on the much-discussed prospect of government financial support being offered to help the GP survive.

"I think we're in an interesting phase in terms of the whole recent history of F1. I think the notion that F1 will achieve recognition in financial terms from the British government is fanciful. I just can't see any way that the government can pay directly to support a sport like F1 from taxpayer's money, and indeed I find it difficult to get my own head round it. But I can see more of a case for supporting somewhere like Silverstone as a state-of-the-art F1 circuit."

So what about private finance? Hill is equally forthright:

"I think there is a political problem in investing in F1 if it could be construed that this would go to private equity. I think there would be outrage. Add the fact that the FIA is a bit of a controversial organisation at the moment which makes the whole issue even more of a hot potato. "I think what we're trying to do at Silverstone is fulfil some of the government's ambitions for education and tourism by using the circuit's global brand to boost those initiatives."

Let's hope he is right.