London GP looks a long way off despite the hype


Thu, 28 Jun 17:12:00 2012

World champions Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button welcomed the idea of a London Formula One Grand Prix on Thursday although others were sceptical about whether it would ever pick up speed and become reality.

With next week's British Grand Prix at Silverstone fast approaching, sponsors Santander revived a long-cherished idea of a race in the capital with a computer-generated impression of how it might look.

The concept, generally considered a bit of fun to create some headlines and buzz ahead of the country's annual race, was due to be presented later with Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone among the guests.

The 81-year-old Briton has long backed a London race although the cost, logistics and environmental concerns have proved insuperable obstacles in the past.

"Think what it would do for tourism," he told the Times newspaper. "It would be fantastic, good for London, good for England - a lot better than the Olympics.

"Maybe we would front it and put the money up for it," added the billionaire, who usually drives a hard bargain on fees.


Details that emerged on Thursday presented an obvious and very solid problem with the track threading through the monumental Admiralty Arch off Trafalgar Square.

That would be very much an accident waiting to happen, given that ordinary traffic goes through its three narrow arches in single file and there is no way around it.

McLaren's Button, the 2009 champion, said he loved the idea in principle anyway.

"Personally, do I like the idea of having a London Grand Prix? Yes, the more grands prix in the UK the better," he told Reuters. "But I'm not sure where it would be. There was talk of using the Olympic Stadium, which could be quite a lot of fun.

"I'm not sure you would be able to close down London for a grand prix, but it's a nice idea though," added the 32-year-old, who has yet to stand on the podium of his home grand prix.

Bookmakers William Hill were sceptical. They offered odds of 1/33 that there would be no race in London until at least 2016.

"The idea of a London Grand Prix is a great one in theory but in practice it will take a great deal of preparation and we cannot see it happening for some time," said a spokesman.

Ecclestone was involved in discussions with the city's former mayor Ken Livingstone at one point but it came to nothing.

The current incumbent Boris Johnson, a famously keen cycling fan who has also penned the occasional car review in his journalistic career, expressed qualified support.

"I am always interested in projects that attract jobs and bring growth," he said, while expressing concern about air quality and noise.

The possibility of using the area around the new Olympic stadium in east London has been mooted, with one of the companies on a shortlist to take over the facility after the Games talking of putting on a grand prix there.

Ecclestone denied involvement in that bid when asked by Reuters, but has said he would be interested in any proposal once the relevant permits were obtained.

Hamilton, McLaren's 2008 champion and a winner at Silverstone, was also keen on the general idea.

"I was looking over the city and a grand prix here would be the best thing in the world, the biggest event," he told reporters. "It would be sensational.

"They never approach drivers to have any input into the design of circuits but I would be very open to help in any way if they are planning to do it, to give advice on curves and corners and parts we should be going through."


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