The prospect of a London Grand Prix has been raised again, despite no concrete plans existing to make the idea a reality.
The latest speculation has been fuelled by F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone, who said a race on London’s streets would be “fantastic” before admitting in the same breath that no-one is willing to pay for it.
An F1 race on the streets of London has been talked about for decades, but the closest the sport has come is a demonstration run around the city centre in 2004 (pictured above). At that time, the mayor of London Ken Livingstone talked about a race being held in 2007 but it failed to come to fruition. Since then, several similar claims have been made by politicians, marketing companies and Ecclestone himself, but none have resulted in anything more than a series of speculative headlines.
“The answer is that if it can be done, then yes, we’d love to do it,” Ecclestone told ITV News following the election of Sadiq Kahn as mayor. “There is a small technical issue, who is going to pay for it, but apart from that I can’t see any dramas.
“[A grand prix] in the middle of London would be fantastic. I mean we’re having the same sort of thing in Baku now and like in Monaco. Street races have become very popular. We’d have a lot more viewers than they do in Monte Carlo.”
Aside from the disruption to the city and the extensive modifications needed to London’s streets for a grand prix to take place, funding is likely to be the biggest hurdle. F1 sanctioning fees for races have continued to increase in recent years, with Azerbaijan the latest government to agree to an escalating year-on-year contract to host a street race in its capital Baku.
A similar deal in the UK would be unimaginable in the current political climate of austerity, and London itself is not in need of the worldwide publicity a race offers. Monaco is the only venue that does not pay hosting fees — due to its historical status — but even Monza is struggling to negotiate new terms to continue hosting the Italian Grand Prix beyond 2016.