The proposed track would run for 3.2 miles starting at The Mall and passing Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, The Houses of Parliament and The London Eye. It’s been said that the race could generate anything upwards of £100 million in ticket sales and sponsorship deals, a far greater amount than the £35 million Ecclestone has estimated the event to cost. However, we all know that big projects like this have a nasty habit of spiralling way over-budget in the UK – The Olympics, Edinburgh Tram, Holyrood etc!
Of course this is not the first time a London Grand Prix has been proposed, legendary British driver said “they’ve been talking about a London Grand Prix since I was racing in the sixties,” he referred to the idea simply as “a wonderful dream.” In the past the idea has been dismissed on the grounds of cost or feasibility, this time however, Ecclestone himself has claimed he would pay the £35 million required to set up the event. There’s a couple of problems here – the £100 million minimum generated would therefore be going straight back in to Ecclestone’s pocket, not the economy. The benefit of this event for London would therefore be “the promotion of the city and increase in tourism”
The main problem with Ecclestone footing the bill comes from the F1 details – the Grand Prix venues must pay a huge fee to the commercial arm of the sport for the privilege of hosting an F1 Grand Prix. This department is conveniently run by none other than Bernie Ecclestone. If Ecclestone pays for the event, this huge fee will be waived which would be very hypocritical as he would not allow a race in Austin, Texas appear on the calendar unless the fee was paid, even though an event in the USA is very important for F1.
In the past the idea has been shot down rather quickly by officials, however, since Ecclestone has offered to foot the bill it would appear he has the support of the Mayor of London. Boris Johnson stated “I am broadly positive about the plan, providing we can satisfy the air quality and noise issues.” While it appears he is in support of the plan, Boris may just be skirting around saying an outright no, with noise levels of the cars at the start line reaching 140 decibels – the equivalent of a jet engine at 100ft – it is highly unlikely that noise issues will be satisfied!
It’s highly unlikely that even if Ecclestone somehow managed to tick every box and jump through all the hoops the government laid out that the F1 would choose to hold a London Grand Prix any time soon. Britain already has a very popular Grand Prix at Silverstone which is contracted until 2027. A number of countries including U.S.A., Russia, Thailand and Mexico are queuing up for races – it no longer makes sense for F1 to grant two races in one country.
There is much speculation, regardless of the above points, that Ecclestone was ever planning this to be more than a dream to get people talking. The press has claimed that this was a publicity stunt between Ecclestone and Santander to create hype for Silverstone and also the McLaren team who are sponsored by Santander. This seems feasible as the only two drivers present at the unveiling or featured in the simulated video were McLaren team mates Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button – surely some other F1 drivers would have been interested in this possibility too?
Lewis Hamilton & Jenson Button attend the launch of the London Grand Prix
Whether or not this was a PR coup, or if it would ever go ahead, the idea of a London Grand Prix has got people talking. The Olympics has shown that as a nation we love a big event and it has filled the country with national pride. Could a London Grand Prix be a success or would the novelty wear off and become a source of negativity among the Londoners disrupted by it every year? Would you really want dozens of F1 cars hurtling past your front door for a weekend? While all we can do for now is speculate on the motives behind Ecclestone’s plan, one thing is for sure – Monaco has nothing to worry about for the time being!