London Grand Prix: Are Bernie Ecclestone's F1 plans for capital just PR bluster?


Formula One Boss kick-starts plans for first London GP since 1938

London Grand Prix 2004 - Jordan

FORMULA ONE boss Bernie Ecclestone has pledged £35million ($54.5million) to kick-start plans for a London Grand Prix according to reports today.

The scheme could see F1 cars racing around the capital's streets at speeds over 200mph. Starting near Pall Mall the circuit's route would take in The Ritz Hotel, Hyde Park Corner, Buckingham Palace, Parliament Square, The Embankment and Trafalgar Square.

We've been here before of course.

Back in 2004, then Mayor of London Ken Livingstone backed a similar F1 plan for the capital as did Ecclestone. A race originally planned for 2007 never took place and many thought at the time that the idea was being used as a stick by Ecclestone with which to bash Silverstone race circuit.

The Northamptonshire track had fallen foul of Ecclestone for failing to improve facilties and agree to rising hosting charges. The British Grand Prix was for a while scheduled to take place at a revised Donnington Park circuit, but their developer's financial woes led to the national race remaining at Silverstone for the foreseeable future.

As we reported back in 2004, London is no stranger to racing cars: "The city last hosted a Grand Prix race on the 28th of June 1938 at the Crystal Palace circuit in south London. That day an ERA driven by Prince Birabongse Bhanutej Bhanubandh, or "B. Bira" as he was affectionately known, took the chequered flag for the second year running".

And as part of the drum-up for support for the proposed 2007 race, F1 cars took to the streets of central London on 6 July 2004 with a demonstration route taking them from Pall Mall up Regents Street and back via Oxford Circus (pictured top and right). Police reports at the time suggested as many as 500,000 people lined the route.

This time around, as much as we might wish to have the bad smell of the over-bearing and over-costly Olympics driven away from the capital by the intoxicating whiff of high-octane race fuel, chances are this could be another cheap-shot publicity stunt.

Exhibit A: McLaren drivers Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton will tonight (7pm, 28 June 2012) at the Royal Automobile Club unveil a race-simulation of their cars whizzing around a 'fantasy' London circuit produced to promote their sponsor Santander. For a glimpse of the full video check their Facebook channel (from 8pm tonight):

Exhibit B: Bernie Ecclestone could do with a bit of positive PR the day after his erstwhile business associate, German banker Gerhard Gribkowksy, was gaoled for eight and a half years by a Munich Court. Gribkowksy confessed last week to "tax evasion, breach of trust towards his former employer and being in receipt of corrupt payments" reports today's Telegraph. Now German prosecutors must decide whether to initiate proceedings against Ecclestone, who has always firmly denied paying bribes to Gribkowksy, for his and his family trust's role in the affair.

Sadly it seems then that this fresh talk is little more than self-serving hot air. If we're wrong we'll offer to do a grid-walk. Naked.

Bernie Eccletone would consider funding potential London Grand Prix (Autosport)
Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone plans London grand prix (Guardian)
London Grand Prix by 2007 (LondonNet)
Revealed: Hamilton and Button present video plans of £35m London Grand Prix (Mail)
Attention turns to Bernie Ecclestone after German banker is jailed in Formula One corruption case (Telegraph)
A London GP… How about one on Mars? (Joe Saward Blog)

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