Uphill battle to realise London Grand Prix 'dream'

Updated: 29 June 2012 18:28 IST

London's prospects of hosting a street circuit Formula One Grand Prix around the capital's most iconic landmarks were given a temporary boost this week when Spanish bank Santander unveiled a video of its plans.

Uphill battle to realise London Grand Prix 'dream'

London:

London's prospects of hosting a street circuit Formula One Grand Prix around the capital's most iconic landmarks were given a temporary boost this week when Spanish bank Santander unveiled a video of its plans.


To much fanfare in the British capital, and with the support of two leading British drivers whose team just happens to be sponsored by the Spanish banking giant, the story was given a widespread airing.

But behind the hype and the gloss, there was little of substance to support the long-held view that a London Grand Prix is anything more than a dream - a fantasy that would need political support and great financial backing to become established and permanent.

The support of Britons Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button of McLaren was as obvious and predictable as the over-hyped presentation and left few seasoned observers, many of whom have been cynical for years, with much doubt.

Unlike the London marathon, or hosting the Olympic Games, the logistical challenge and level of disruption is both long-term and costly, not to mention likely to lead to many parts of London being closed to traffic for several weeks.

Hamilton, however, said he believed in the project and added that Britain would be justified in hosting two Grands Prix at a time when the national economy is in a downward spiral and the population suffering from austerity programmes.

"Some other countries have two races like Spain and Germany, and arguably the UK makes an enormous contribution to F1, so I reckon that would be completely justified," he said.

"Silverstone is more than just my home race; it is a giant of a circuit, a real racer's track. The idea of a London race presents a completely different possibility and it would be great to reward our home fans with two races, wouldn't it?"

The Santander circuit takes in many of London's famous landmarks including Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament. The start/finish straight and the pits would be on the Mall where only a few weeks ago a vast crowd stood and celebrated the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.

Button said he believed that if an event could ever be put on it could help cement London's place as a sporting capital.

"There have been times when I've been sitting in the back of a black taxi and idly thought to myself, 'This would make a pretty good corner on a racetrack," he said.

"If we ever could have a London Grand Prix, I think it would be spectacular and would be such a great addition to the city's status as one of the world's greatest sporting capitals.

"We did an F1 street demonstration on Regent Street a few years ago, and half a million people came out to watch - I remember the sight of thousands of people on rooftops and balconies on every storey of every building along the route.

"There's a mammoth following for Formula 1 in the UK and a race in the city would be at the heart of everything, easily reachable by public transport. It would be a fantastic race for the drivers and the fans alike."

Despite their support and a claimed offer from F1 commercial ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone that he is prepared to put up £35 million to be the promoter, this project - or the video - was apparently ignored by politicians and received little palpable support.

Sir Stirling Moss, a legendary name in the history of British motor racing, was quoted saying: "I think they have been talking about this for as long as I have been racing - and it has always been a great idea, but it is just a dream."



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