With the Formula 1 season hotting up and the British Grand Prix this coming weekend what better time to release news of a hypothetical London Grand Prix. Yes, you heard me correctly, a London Grand Prix in which the F1 grid of 24 cars would race around the streets of London.
The 3.2 mile planned circuit, starting on the Mall, would whisk the drivers around many famous land marks in London including a 200mph straight towards Buckingham Palace, some rather ambitious corners to get from Trafalgar Square to Admiralty Arch and a pit lane based in St James Park.
It certainly would be an incredible sight to behold. The average speed of cars around London is currently approximately 7mph so it’d be a novelty to see anything travelling around London’s streets faster than that. Anything that wasn’t a bicycle or a horse that is.
When I first saw this news story hit the newspapers and TV screens I immediately got really rather excited. Firstly I’m rather excitable anyway, but secondly I have seen the British Grand Prix at Silverstone on a few occasions over the years. At my first British Grand Prix back in 1987 I happened to be stood on Stowe Corner cheering for Nigel Mansell as he charged and charged, lap after lap, until at the very last moments of the race he finally caught and overtook Williams team-mate Nelson Piquet. It was one the boldest manoeuvres I’d ever seen and happened right in front of my very own eyes at Stowe Corner. From that moment I was hooked and thinking back I still hold it as one of the most exciting sporting moments I’ve ever witnessed. The thought of bringing that kind of excitement to a large crowd in our capital city is instantly appealing and would give some of the younger Londoners their first experience of motorsport at it’s best. It could possibly even inspire the next generation of Jenson Button’s or Lewis Hamilton’s.
Speaking of Button and Hamilton, they’re the two drivers largely responsible for fine tuning and testing the track layout as well as the two front men for most of the subsequent publicity. Hamilton said: “This is an utterly epic track and would produce the most stunning and compelling Formula One race.”
The project has the support of Formula One top man Bernie Ecclestone who has said he could front the money to pay for the race to happen. We already know that Bernie has a reputation of throwing money at things to make his problems go away and his dreams happen so he may well be good for his cash offer. He commented: “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.”
So let’s get this straight; A London street race, on a road circuit design that’s been aided by two F1 drivers and with both the funding and support of Bernie Ecclestone. There are even these lovely mock-up images of the event to make it seem all the more real. It’s really going to happen isn’t it? No. Not really. While the rendered images show how exciting a night race around the streets of London could be I just think that there are too many obstacles in front of this race. I’m not just talking about the dangerous looking narrow arches that the cars would supposedly race through either.
Firstly, why has this been illustrated as a night race? The GP Championship does now have a night race of course, in Singapore, so it’s not completely left-field but with the London GP you get the sense that they decided to show the race at night simply because it would look more dynamic and exciting on the images.
Secondly, what would happen to the Silverstone race? Would it replace the current, historic British Grand Prix at Silverstone, which is of course one of the best circuits on the F1 Calendar? The London GP is pitched at being an additional race on the Formula One Calendar and I think that is a sticking point as well. Does the season need another race? And, if it did, would it ever actually get organised in a country that has its own Grand Prix already? I can’t see it ever becoming either an addition to the current season nor a replacement for the Silverstone based British GP.
Thirdly, the race would require the central London road network to get shut down for 10 days (according to the Mail Online). I realise that this is the year that we’re hosting the Olympics and that things like this suddenly seem easily possible but I just cannot see the race getting the go-ahead based purely on the disruption to the infrastructure around our capital city. Boris Johnson (yes, I bet you were wondering how long before the bike riding, toad-like, Boris got a mention) has indicated he’d be willing to look at the financial issues surrounding the race. We’ve all seen how enthusiastic Boris got over the Olympics and the Jubilee celebrations and so far none of this has happened for the London GP. I think if the plan was a goer then Boris would already have been on TV, probably dressed as The Stig and blabbering out some exceptionally random and embarrassing fact about Britain’s long standing racing history.
Fourthly, and I don’t want to delve too far into this for the sake of this article, but let’s face it, Bernie Ecclestone did need a more positive story about him in the media following the allegations of his £27 million bribe to a German banker to prevent an inconvenient tax problem. I fear that this has merely provided him with that and given him something different to answer questions about.
So while I don’t believe that there will be a London Grand Prix in the foreseeable future it doesn’t stop me imagining just how wonderfully spectacular it could be. The mere thought of it makes me dream again like the twelve year old boy I was when I first saw the British Grand Prix. But that’s all I think it is; A beautiful dream.
Photo’s from formula1.com
Video courtesy of ITV / youtube