The idea of a London Grand Prix is no joke according to Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone. The venerable strong-puller of F1 says he’s wanted a race in London for a long time and that it would be great for the city.
The idea has certainly not been cooked up on a bar napkin as Santander released a video of the proposed circuit layout and the architectural group Populous was hired for planning. Populous is no stranger to large event venues with other venue clients such as London’s O2 Arena and the Sochi 2014 Olympic Stadium. Ecclestone said:
“the idea of an F1 street-race in London is something I have had for many years. It would be magnificent. A couple of years ago we came very close to an agreement with the City of Westminster and The Mayor’s office but we ran into the small problem of cost. A few years back over half a million people turned-up to watch F1 cars parading through the streets of the capital. The public’s appetite for a London Grand Prix is huge as I am sure it is with the F1 teams and sponsors.”
The concept was born from Santander’s original promotional concept but Ecclestone said it morphed from there and now is a financial obligation he is willing to cover. Ecclestone told the Guardian:
“And before I knew it I was apparently the one who was behind it. I didn’t know about it to be honest, but I accepted the credit. I did say – not in relation to that [plan] – that if we could have a race in London, we would be prepared to pay £35m to make it happen.”
A simple question might be: Does F1 need another night race or street course on the calendar? Monaco, Valencia, New Jersey, Canada, Australia and eventually Sochi (if that happens) are all currently part of the equation. Has F1 hit a new business model that is more sustainable via converted streets than purpose-built circuits requiring massivne investment (usually government-backed) and long-term track economics? Such as the Circuit of the Americas?
The other issue is the number of races on a calendar. many teams have argued that 20 races is the limit but as things progress and new venues are added, old venues will have to give way at contracts end. This could mean Spa Francorchamp, Malaysia, Hockenheim/Nurburgring, Valencia and other locations. Some with deeply rooted histories in F1.
What do you think? Do we need a race in London? Does London need a race in London? If America is slated for two grands prix by 2013 and the fans are lukewarm about F1, surely the UK, with its red hot fans, deserves more than one grand prix?