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Video: A lap of the imaginary London GP track
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Posted By: James Allen  |  29 Jun 2012   |  8:57 am GMT  |  84 comments

Here is the on board lap of the imaginary F1 track around London which was such a talking point yesterday.

The launch event last night was an interesting affair; Bernie Ecclestone, predictably, did not show up. It was his intervention with the Times newspaper that turned this from a light hearted PR stunt by Santander UK with Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button ahead of the British Grand Prix, which the bank also sponsors, into something of a monster; with TV networks, radio stations and other media clamouring to cover it.

Last night’s event went from being a champagne and canapés evening to release a tongue in cheek CGI film, to a “launch of ambitious plans, by Bernie Ecclestone”.

As he has done before, putting an eye catching number on it, like the £35 million he said he would personally invest to see it happen, gave the thing its legs. This echoes the £1 million cash prize fund he promised in 1993 for a head to head between F1 and IndyCar when he was concerned about the impact Nigel Mansell was making in IndyCar.

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson, had to tread cautiously yesterday. He wasn’t at the launch but said that he was “broadly positive” about the idea, but that London would need to assess whether the economic impact would match up with the disruption to the city.

“The question of air quality and noise impact will have to be looked at,” said the Mayor. “I am broadly positive providing we can satisfy the air quality and noise issues.”

Much of the talk last night was of how this story had happened and there are clearly a number of dimensions to it.

It was lost on no-one that the Times front page splash on the London GP story diverted attention away from the sentencing of Gerhard Gribkowsky in Munich on corruption charges relating to $44 million payments from Ecclestone. That story was covered on Wednesday night but by Thursday the London GP story had ensured the Gribkowsky headlines were brief.

Ecclestone now waits to see if the prosecutors in Munich will try to mount a case against him and much of the talk last night was about that and what would happen if a prosecution were to be launched.

Ecclestone also took the opportunity to give one of F1′s leading sponsors a boost at a time when Spanish banks are under serious pressure due to the Euro crisis. With Santander having its credit rating lowered earlier this month and Santander having a very large investment in the sport via McLaren, Ferrari and several GP sponsorships, Ecclestone gave the bank a media splash worth tens of millions.

It’s easy to be cynical and dismiss it out of hand, but as always with Ecclestone there is a kernel of truth to it; there is no doubt that Ecclestone has always liked the idea of a street race around his home city, which is why this keeps coming up in one form or another, but the truth is that it’s probably as far off today as it has ever been.

The word is that Silverstone has been rather underwhelmed by the story, coming a week ahead of the British Grand Prix. But the noise will have well and truly died down by next weekend and Silverstone with its large, passionate crowd will put on a great show and underline why it has a 17 year contract to host the event and why a London Grand Prix makes a nice film, but not a reality.

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84 Comments
  1. Wayne says:

    I think as long as all involved pay appropriate respect to Silverstone (and from what I have read Button and Hamilton did just that) there is no harm in this story. It would be outrageous to suddenly attempt to undermine Silverstone in favour of something more glamorous because it suits us all. There is more to racing than Glamour, Monaco proves that every year – iconic imagery – awful racing. Silverstone is the home of British motor racing, it’s done it’s time to prove that. However, while this is a blatant PR exercise, a London GP would be amazing both fro motorsport fans and for the country as whole. The UK is one of a few countries which actually deserves (based on contribution and history) and has the demand for 2 GP. Also, GP help in the UK cost the tax payer little to nothing.

    1. William Wilgus says:

      It seems to me that the United Kingdom, or UK, already has three GPs: one in England, one in Australia, and one in Canada. Why should it get another one? After all, F-1 is an international sport. The arguments that certain countries in other parts of the world shouldn’t have them won’t wash. If the races in those countries are boring, it’s due to the track, not the location. Change the tracks, not their locations!

      1. Wayne says:

        I have literally no idea how you worked that out. The UK is England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Are you thinking of the commonwealth? Also, I didn’t argue that other countries should not have them, so no real idea what doesn’t wash either.

      2. jeff says:

        I think you’ve just offended two countries in one statement. Both countries have the Queen on their money, but they’re independent entities, and definitely not part of the UK.

        Wayne’s comment was that since the UK contributes the a very large share of the car technology and engineering to F1, any country deserves 2 GPs, it is the UK.

        Personally, I dislike street races, and prefer to watch racing on real racetracks. If it was a choice between Silverstone or a London street race, it would be Silverstone for me.

      3. William Wilgus says:

        See my reply to Wayne above.

      4. Wayne says:

        Silverstone for me too, agree completely about street races.

  2. TW says:

    Despite it possibly never happening, it appears to be a very good track, much better than the bores or Bahrain or Malaysia where the tracks are designed, rather than evolved to suit. That’s what makes Silverstone, Spa, Interlagos such exciting races.

    1. James Allen says:

      That’s right – I think you have to view this as a “wouldn’t it be cool if..” video and nothing more

      1. James Clayton says:

        Maybe it’ll make its way as a hidden feature in the next F1 video game :)

      2. Valois says:

        Maybe a DLC? :-)

      3. chivalrous says:

        I really really hope so!

      4. LD01 says:

        It was obvious as soon as I saw this story on JAF1 yesterday this was a stunt and nothing more, to distract the attention from the bad smell coming from Bernie.

        Cool video though.

      5. Dan Orsino says:

        James, I’ve just done a flying lap of that route on supersofts:
        3 hrs 12 mns 59 sec.

      6. Kay says:

        LOL!
        Don’t think even a Vettel or Alonso can beat your time given the state you had to do that lap in! (assuming you were in ultra heavy traffic)

      7. Richard says:

        LOL

    2. Kay says:

      Malaysia does provide good overtaking though. Though I agree with you on Silverstone Spa Interlagos being great tracks. I think these tracks are successful coz they make use of natural landscape or how it was originally without alternating the layout too much.
      Silverstone – Originally an airfield and stuck to using a majority of the layout more or less.
      Spa – semi-permanant public road, similar to Le Mans and the big old Nurburgring
      Interlagos, sticking to the original landscape in being on a slope, unlike various Tilke tracks where huge earth movements etc which make them all very artificial.

      As much as I like the idea of London GP, looks like it’s gonna be a Monaco style GP where it does not provide a lot of overtaking opportunities.

    3. john nichols says:

      The first design was produced in 1969 and was nearly adopted by a group of businessmen when 6 prominent firms of architects could not come up with a better solution than the 69 design (43 years ago). It would be interesting if the 69 circuit was given the 2012 treatment and the top drivers allowed to choose on which circuit they would prefer to race on. You can judge for yourself

      http://itcracing.blogspot.com/2011/09/london-proposed-grand-prix-circuit-1969.html

  3. Kay says:

    Brilliant! Looks like Bernie wants to make it into a night race as well from the video?!

    1. Mike says:

      That was a day race. You need the spotlights for a typical summer day in London!

      1. Kay says:

        Typical British weather if a rainy day? Lol

      2. milkboy says:

        lol very good.

    2. James Clayton says:

      It would be more spectacular at night, and would certainly ease the problems closing off the city, but it goes against his philosiphy of having GPS showing at peak times in Europe.

      Maybe he doesn’t care so much about that now that F1 coverage is generally moving towards pay tv?

      1. Daniel B. says:

        I imagine it would also be too cold.
        Maybe not for the fans… but please think of the tires.

    3. Col says:

      Bernie had nothing to do with the video

      1. Kay says:

        If it wasn’t for his wish to have a London GP, this concept wouldn’t arise and thus video created. So this has everything to do with Bernie.

      2. Col says:

        So you think when he found out that Santander were making a video he requested they set it at night because that’s what he wanted? Bernie got involved with the video for one reason and it has nothing to do with his wish to have a London GP.

      3. Kay says:

        Don’t reckon Bernie need to find out anything. He creates them and make things happen rather than find out someone else does something.

      4. Ohm says:

        Eh? I thought this was a Santander’s stunt?

  4. Stephen Hill says:

    And I was thinking it would be a day race…

  5. Mike Dawson says:

    A marketing and PR masterclass. This should be one of those case studies that is at the core of marketing and PR qualifications the world over.

    We’re all talking about this. Santander, McLaren, F1, The British GP and Bernie all get positive spin. While we all gloss over the Gribkowsky trial.

    In reality, this race would be as spectacular as we all think. Too many concrete walls and safety fencing to appreciate the contrast with London architecture and F1 Machinery.

    1. Myxomatosis says:

      True, very well played all round.

  6. Andy says:

    It’s occaisions like this when I admire Bernie. He created media hype about a possible London GP, deflecting attention away from the court case, and all over what was a really poor advertising effort from Santander. When I watched it last night, to say it was underwhelming is an overstatement.
    Yes it is all about promoting Santander, but to base it around the sights of London and then run it as if at night, in monochrome !
    For me, it was nothing more than dark and dreary and I don’t think it actually promoted Santander that well either.
    No doubt some ad agency is gleefully rubbing their hands together somewhere.

    1. milkboy says:

      I was underwhelmed too. Don’t mind they made it a night race, but there was too much blah, blah from Jenson and Lewis and not enough footage of the lap. Seemed a bit of a waste after all the work that clearly has gone into it (i.e. getting the Silverstone guys to design it and getting Jenson and Lewis to laps on a simulator, getting the Sky team involved).

      Plus I can’t be the only one who cringes every time Lewis ‘interacts’ with those fake virtual environments.

  7. Dan Orsino says:

    nice video to watch.
    Science fiction of course. Just resurfacing all those particular roads would be a project too far, never mind removing the 5000 + traffic islands and bollards and what have you.
    For the sake of F1, I hope sincerely that Bernie can escape the rising tide against him. I’m almost sure he can fingers crossed.
    How long could F1 survive without him?

    1. Col says:

      There was an F1 before Bernie and there will be an F1 after Bernie

    2. milkboy says:

      Bernie, is that you?

  8. Kay says:

    Brilliant! Looks like Bernie wants to make it into a night race as well from the video?!

    This video would’ve been better if they had a map insert at the bottom corner plus a speedometer showing how fast the car travels at various parts of the circuit.

  9. Gabriel says:

    Quite tricky to spot any landmarks in the first half of the video. And surely, given the timezone, it’d be a daytime race.

    PR stunt, sadly.

  10. Andy says:

    Got to admire Bernie’s way of manipulating the media.

    The London GP will never happen (not in central london at least)

    As for the circuit? Could be anywhere, plus the bit under the arch would never get through the FIA safety regulations.

    Although here’s a crazy idea… if Bernie wants a “London” Grand Prix, why not invest that £35m into getting Brands Hatch up to F1 Standards? it’s only 25 miles outside of London, closer than “London-Luton” airport, so could easily be the “London” Grand Prix :p

    1. Dudley says:

      The problem Hatch has is not the trackwork so much as the NIMBYs.

  11. Quercus says:

    At this moment I find it hard to see how all this publicity for Santander can be worth tens of millions. I’m sure most people — particular Germans — will be thinking, “that’s our money”.

    And to those who will surely trot out the tired old ‘there’s no such thing as bad publicity’ aphorism, I’d say, “ask Bob Diamond whether he agrees”.

  12. zoidy84 says:

    can’t help but feel that to be a proper track, you need a hairpin really … if we were to make a track for simulation purposes of course.

    1. Kay says:

      And no pit lane!!! LOL!
      Or was Bernie thinking of taking away tyre changes all together? Heh

      1. Simmo says:

        There was a pit lane. Started just after the ridiculously thin arch. :)

  13. Larry Perkins says:

    When I first saw the empty stands I thought it was a promo for a Shanghai night race.

  14. AH Jordan says:

    Funnist thing is, that route on any other day would probably take nearer 1 hour 40 minutes than 1 minute 40 seconds…

    …would love to see if happen, but it would block up one of the main routes into London, which pretty much ensures it won’t…

    1. Kay says:

      LOL!!!!!!!!! True with the 1 hour 40 min bit.

  15. Looks like an awesome layout and far more pleasing to the eye than a load of blue walls and containers in Valencia!

  16. thejudge13 says:

    Yeah right!!! Ok what else can we imagine? A grand prix on water – oops BE already suggested this at his own race track in France…

    Hey, what about the “Unite Europe Africa GP” – Lets build a temporary track between Gibraltor and North Africa….

    Or even the “Theme Park GP”. Apparently F1 cars create so much downforce that they could drive upside down in a tunnel. Why not get them doing roller coaster style loops the loops and twists even Evil Knieval style jumps…..Hey the Grand Canyon GP – there’s a plan.

    I already mentioned yesterday the “Underground GP”…could run it in the Channel Tunnel -probably more visually interesting than Valencia…

    Maybe we could have the “War Zone GP” Teams run the gauntlet in Homms, whilst the Syrian army shell the spectators… Survival is winning.

    [mod]

    1. Kay says:

      LOL…
      Channel Tunnel would result in making the first drag race for F1 though.

  17. Daniel says:

    No way they’re going to pass under the Admiralty Arch!

    1. Richard Williams says:

      Certainly not the way it is laid out here; just enough room for one car and with concrete pillars either side going through the arch at over 100mph is just asking for trouble. Some sort of chicane, like the Singapore sling, might make it possible, though.

  18. Steve Rogers says:

    Although the concept looks like a rival to Silverstone, I think it will help to focus people in the UK on the upcoming British GP.

  19. why did they cgi it at night ? would have thought it would look tons better during day ? harder to cgi ?

    also with all those barriers , you could not see much of london :)

    anyway , would be a nice dream , would be a great one off race … but dont think it will happen

    Matt

  20. l'Esplanadist says:

    There is a ready made tunnel along that route why not use it?
    It’s about the same curve and length as the monaco but its got a steepish down and up and then there could be a hair pin at the top to double back to H Park Corner…

    Getting carried away there! but it is a nice route…
    sigh.
    Never happen, will it?

  21. Ben says:

    Hello James, would be interested in hearing some more about the 1993 head to head, I’ve not seen any mention of this before, would be nice to have the full story if you know it?

    1. James Allen says:

      It was when I was an editor at Autosport. Bernie was uncomfortable with the amount of coverage Mansell was getting in IndyCar and so he offered £1m cash prize for a race F1 vs IndyCar. It’ll be in Autosport archives. Someone will have it. Post it here if you do or send me a scan of the news article from the mag and I’ll post it. james@jamesallenonf1.com

      1. Kay says:

        Reckon James May might have saved a copy in his own computer or kept several copies? :D

  22. elmo says:

    Man….. that would be so cool! I love going to silverstone for the atmosphere and knowledge of it’s supporters. Having a GP in London would enhance all the feelings you get from noise and smell, like the goose bumps you get when 24 F1 cars pile round the first corner. And as a PlayStation F1 enthusiast I would love to drive it Just for that bit into the Mall! Threading through that chicane and a double apex left hand. We can only dream :-)

  23. Chris Phillips says:

    Hi James, Thanks for putting that up, great to watch.

    Is it me, or are there no passing opportunities (less than Monaco!!).

    Would be spectacular, but surely the logistics would be insurmountable – even for Bernie!

    Chris

    Ps. Are you still on Radio 5 for GP coverage?

    1. James Allen says:

      Yes, I’ll be fronting it in Silverstone.

  24. Lawrence says:

    That looks awesome. Please may it happen. I’d prefer a day-time race though. At night it is hard to show off the city. FP1 and FP2 could be held at night.

  25. Lawrence says:

    Just a thought, if the London Marathon can happen and the Notting Hill Carnival; why not a London GP? I appreciate the cost involved would be much more than for the aforementioned events but people have got the money. It was reported that the number of people that could attend the race would only be about 30K and the tickets would cost £500. I reckon 30K would pay that to see this race. Also, if F1 was concerned about spectators they’d do more to get more bums on seats at some of the fly-away races. Also, when you think about all the permanent tracks built around the world that are not being used by F1 but could be, Istanbul Park Circuit, Fuji Speedway, Mugello, A1 Ring, Magny Cours, Paul Ricard, Circuito de Jerez etc etc surely it makes sense to have some temporary tracks, the cost can’t be much more than building the aforementioned white elephants and attendance would be higher due to convenience.

    1. Dudley says:

      The London Marathon does not involve resurfacing 5 miles of road, it does not close the centre of London for a week, you don’t have to remove and replace several hundred traffic islands and speed bumps.

      Notting Hill Carnival is by no means the centre of London.

      1. Lawrence says:

        Good points. How do you know it would require the road to be resurfaced? There is a possibility the road and street ‘furniture’ could be designed that it is easily removed and replaced. I appreciate the NH Carn is not held in Cent Lond but it apparently brings in about 600K people, therefore a lot of disruption for several days. The closing of roads around the proposed route for a week would be inconvenient but it could be tolerated. I think what I am saying is if there is the will it could be done cost is a factor as well as inconvenience but they are hurdles that could be got over.

      2. Dudley says:

        ” How do you know it would require the road to be resurfaced?”

        I’ve rode over large parts of it.

        “here is a possibility the road and street ‘furniture’ could be designed that it is easily removed and replaced.”

        So the current furniture would still need to be removed and replaced.

        To be honest, the one thing that kills the idea dead is the very concept of running the things through a third of Admiralty Arch.

      3. AndyC_F1 says:

        Having walked a lot of that track as a commuter, agreed with the logistical problems. Not to mention security problems.

        I once had a puncture on my rear tyre after driving round from embankment onto the road up to Westminster.

        Having pulled over just short of the cenotaph I was confronted within 30 seconds by two motor biking armed police.

        I’d love a gp to happen in london though. Would be great.

  26. JamesR says:

    While for one I’m not wasting my breath or index fingers discussing it for obvious reasons.

    However it’s interesting to note in the article that those in the industry are animatedly discussing the situation vis-a-vis Ecclestone and the possibility of an European Arrest Warrant.

    Had Ecclestone attended would the fear of censure stilted the conversation just as it has UK press coverage of the Gribkowsky trial?

  27. john nichols says:

    the original design was a result of the magazine Autosport competition held in 1969 http://itcracing.blogspot.com/2011/09/london-proposed-grand-prix-circuit-1969.html

    1. Tim B says:

      Interesting that the 1969 circuit design also went throught admirality arch. If the cars where slowed down enough why would it be a problem.

  28. Scott D says:

    “The question of air quality and noise impact will have to be looked at,” said the Mayor. “I am broadly positive providing we can satisfy the air quality and noise issues.”

    Come on Boris, surely shutting off part of central London for a few F1 cars can only improve air quality!

  29. veeru says:

    oh boy, not another Valencia. you cant compare this track with Silverstone or spa just because you have cool spots around the circuit

    if that is the track, it is BORING

  30. Neil Daniel says:

    Reminds me of some of the old tracks from the GT series of games. GT5 even has a London circuit which is much more fun (but rather shorter) than this one.

    It’ll never happen anyway. Even if they do manage to resurface the track completely, guarantee some utility company will turn up with a permit to dig it all up to replace a broken cable the week before, then leave a ‘temporary’ patch for the next decade!!!

  31. Eamonn says:

    I think this is a story to take away from the banker getting jailed. Bernie has even offered to pay for it, hahahahaha!

    1. AndyC_F1 says:

      Pay for the banker or the track ;-)?

  32. Derek says:

    As an irish F1 fan this would be great to have a London grand prix, it would make it so excessible to us. However is it really feasible. I mean is there enough space in London to build big grandstands to keep the money men in F1 happy and the fans or is this just a cynical attempt to keep silverstone on it’s toes. Either way even the talk of a London grand prix is exciting!

  33. Brendan says:

    Who did the lap? Can’t have been a real driver. Missed apexes, late on the power and clobbered the left-hand wall at one point…

    Actually, was it you Pastor? ;)

  34. JB says:

    Anyone played Need For Speed SHIFT would know there is a London street track in the game. The game developer were obviously fond of the thought ‘what if’ you can race London like the way you would in Singapore or Monte Carlo.

    Love that track on the game. It has a long straight, some tricky turns with undulation, changing grip surfaces and walls on both sides. It really makes you try hard to go fast. And rewards you want u get it right but bites hard if u get it wrong.

  35. Joe says:

    James,

    Am I right in thinking there are interesting UK TV implication IF this London Grand Prix were to go ahead?

    As i understand it, the current deal between the BBC and Sky is that the BBC have the first pick of three GPs, then Sky choose 3 they would like to have exclusively, and so on…

    Should the London GP go ahead, surely that would give the BBC a big headache, as they would have to choose three from Monaco, Silverstone, London and the final race, neither of which they will want to have as just highlights!

    1. James Allen says:

      It won’t go ahead, so I wouldn’t worry about that

  36. James Showalter says:

    A concrete canyon with lights. And with a single-lane funnel right before start/finish. Not even a dream. A very very expensive nightmare.

  37. Fred Bloggs says:

    Looks like Project Gotham Racing 3 to me, but less well drawn.

  38. SteveSenna says:

    As most say, more smokescreen nonsense to promote Santander and hide the Gribby trial using the Olympic city hype.

    Interesting lap though, missed many an apex and definitely clipped the wall on the left hander 33 seconds in, wonder if it Santander based the lap on Lewis or Jenson. Perhaps their tyres were shot…

    Good to hear Derek Warwick just tear Lewis and Jenson a new one on why they should, as BRDC memebers, so heavily promote this nonsense at the expense of Silverstone.

  39. Ian B says:

    Just watched the London GP lap with the sound off as it was Formula E electric – mmm seems to lack something. The promo car obviously had a tape loop and an amplifier

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