Story: Jack Foley
THE sight of Formula One cars speeding around the capital could
become an annual occurrence, if £20m plans to bring Grand
Prix racing to London are realised.
Following Tuesday’s hugely successful Formula One demonstration
in Regent Street, which attracted an estimated half a million
people, London Mayor, Ken Livingstone, announced that he would
throw his support fully behind any plan to bring the sport to
In an interview with the BBC, he stated: "We started talking
to F1 boss, Bernie Ecclestone, and his people about a year ago
about putting on a proper F1 race.
"It would probably bring two million people to London and
we're really up for it."
Stressing that such a prospect was not hype, Mayor Ken went on
to predict that such a sporting event could bring huge economic
benefits to London, even if it comes at the expense of losing
the Silverstone circuit (the traditional home of the British Grand
Tuesday’s demonstration saw eight F1 cars drive on a course
laid out between Regent Street and Piccadilly Circus. It attracted
many more enthusiasts than had first been imagined.
But despite some reservations over crowd safety, which were exacerbated
by the popularity of this week’s event, Mr Livingstone maintained
that with careful planning, a London showpiece event could be
added to the F1 calendar - making it the second street-based circuit,
What’s more, a possible route has even been ‘pencilled
in’ by the Mayor and his team, which is believed to centre
around Hyde Park Corner and Park Lane.
And given that talks have already
started, a race could be arranged as quickly as two years’
time, especially since it has the backing of the sport’s
leading figures, including, most notably, Mr Ecclestone.
The drivers, themselves, also savoured the prospect, particularly
after putting the cars through their paces on the Regent Street
Williams driver, Juan Pablo Montoya, described such a prospect
as ‘awesome’, while team boss, Sir Frank Williams,
agreed, stating that a Grand Prix of London could be a major sporting
event for the capital on the scale of Monaco.
"I'm a strong supporter, otherwise we wouldn't have sent
a car. I think it would work for us," he added.
However, while many view the prospect of a London Grand Prix
as sounding the death knell for the much-maligned Silverstone
circuit, current British favourite, Jenson Button, believes there
could still be room for both on the F1 calendar.
Citing the fact that both Germany and Italy currently host two
GPs a year, he maintained that England could do the same, and
wholeheartedly backed the idea, having been overwhelmed by the
support for the event on the day (July 6, 2004).
Silverstone currently has a contract to host the British Grand
Prix until 2006, but has consistently been placed under threat,
in recent years, due to its facilities.
But while the hype builds around news of a possible London circuit,
Harvey Goldsmith, the organiser of this week’s event, did
sound a word of caution, by pointing out that there would be a
number of bureaucratic obstacles to overcome before a London GP
could get off the ground.
F1 fans and Londoners themselves will be watching developments
with much curiosity.