Santander’s video concept for a London GP was unveiled in the city tonight, with Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button both present to support a project they have helped come to fruition.
Bernie Ecclestone has made it clear that he would love such an event to happen one day – although for the moment it remains just a very clever PR stunt by the McLaren sponsor.
“The idea of an F1 street race in London is something I have had for many years,” said Bernie. “It would be magnificent. A couple of years ago we came very close to an agreement with the City of Westminster and The Mayor’s office but we ran into the small problem of cost.
“A few years back over half a million people turned-up to watch F1 cars parading through the streets of the capital. The public’s appetite for a London Grand Prix is huge, as I am sure it is with the F1 teams and sponsors.”
In fact everyone in F1 accepts that the logistical problems of closing a large part of central London for several days would seem to be insurmountable, never mind any consideration of noise. A lot of thought has gone into the video, however.
The bank asked architects Populous – who have been involved in Silverstone and the O2 Arena – to come up with a realistic outline for what is intended to be a night race.
Santander says it commissioned Populous “to undertake an extensive and wide-ranging approach to its feasibility plan for a London Grand Prix, embracing all logistical considerations from pits and paddock, grandstands, run-off areas, to kerb profiling, access roads for safety and medical access, catch fencing design, noise attenuation strategies, a three megawatt night race lighting system with 1,200 projectors, bespoke garage pods to house the teams in lightweight, eco-friendly and modern temporary buildings such as the media centre. The integrated travel plan includes spectator entry and exit points which are all accessible via public transport.”
It adds that the “14 corner, 5.1km circuit which features a start grid on The Mall, a 192mph Santander straight in the run up to Buckingham Palace and with perhaps one of the most audacious corners anywhere on the sport’s 20 race global calendar, the London Grand Prix route circuit will steer 24 cars from Trafalgar Square into Admiralty Arch.
“The garages and hospitality suites are multi-purpose items which can easily be packed up and used elsewhere.”
John Rhodes of Populous said: “Delivering an event within an existing city is a lot more sophisticated than just sitting down with a copy of the A-Z. We mapped out some of London’s most recognised places and landmarks and then worked out how we would integrate them within the layout. The design process was driven by the twin requirements of creating an exciting circuit and giving the best view of the iconic places associated with it.
“We surveyed the site very carefully so that the plan would be achievable for real. To provide some notion of the level of forensic detail we have considered, we accounted for no less than 27,000 trees in our plan and I am glad to say the race would not impact a single one.”
Hamilton and Button are both keen for it to happen.
“Having been immersed in this project, having helped to shape this track, it feels as real to me as anywhere I’ve raced,” said Hamilton. “Jenson and I have worked in the simulator to provide some useful feedback to inform the circuit design, so this is far more than whimsical thinking out loud.
“The film that encapsulates all of this work is massively detailed as well as logistically achievable. And I have to say, this is an utterly epic track and would produce the most stunning and compelling Formula 1 race. If you add an event of this complexion to London’s staggering roster of world-class sporting events, it surely would have to own the title of the ultimate sporting metropolis?”
“Both Lewis and I are hugely conscious of how integral the UK is to Formula 1,” said Button. “Right the way from our fan base that is highly knowledgeable and engaged to the technology culture and engineering enterprise that makes us the pre-eminent source of racing innovation anywhere on the planet.
“With all of this background, Silverstone is a natural celebration of the UK’s contribution to Formula 1. It is nice to add to this rich tapestry the notion of a London street race, and I agree with Lewis, it is a great hypothetical track to drive, and is as appealing as the reality of the Silverstone circuit.”