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A London Grand Prix? British Government removes legal hurdles, but who would promote it?
London Grand Prix
Posted By: James Allen  |  11 Jul 2014   |  1:43 pm GMT  |  79 comments

The long held dream of Bernie Ecclestone to hold a Grand Prix on the streets of London remains a dream, but the legal barriers to putting such a race on were lifted today when UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced a change in legislation, allowing councils to close roads more freely for motor sports events. It will become law in March 2015.

Currently hosting a street race in the UK requires an special Act of Parliament.

“I can announce today that we are going to enable more road races for GB motor sport,” said Cameron. “We think this will be really useful to British motor sport: more races, more events, more money coming into the country and more success for this extraordinary industry.”

The FIA’s new Formula E series will be hosting a race in London long before F1 gets around to it, as it will be holding its final round of the 2014/15 season in Battersea Park in London on closed parkland roads in April.

Although the lifting of the legal barriers is undoubtedly a boost, the problem remains of who would be willing to take on the massive financial burden of promoting a London Grand Prix.

The promoters of the aborted New Jersey GP could speak from painful experience about the uncomfortable financial exposure of taking on a street race. Conversely the massive success of the Singapore GP is down to the innovative funding structure whereby 60% of the risk is taken by the Government and 40% by local entrépreneur Ong Being Seng, with the profits share on similar ratios.

Figures of £100 million for ticket sales are being bandied around but the cost of securing the rights to a race – current going rate at least $40 million per year) plus infrastructure costs, with only ticket sales as a way to recoup – make it something that only the wealthiest of private enterprises could consider. The Government itself is highly unlikely to want to get involved in that kind of business as is Boris Johnson’s London Mayor’s office, although both support the idea as a boost for tourism.

Ecclestone has had some fun with the notion of a London Grand Prix in the past, sometimes as a threat to Silverstone when negotiations were difficult, at other times to give some of his sponsors a bit of a boost.

He has intimated in the past, around 2012 the last time it came up, that he might promote the race himself on a track which was dreamed up by Santander UK as a promotional stunt for its British GP sponsorship (above), but that would depend a lot on the level of support he might get from within F1 and from the wider business and political communities in London and on his personal circumstances once his trial in Munich has concluded. More likely he would be looking for a promoter, speaking to Press Associaion this afternoon he said,

“In the past we spoke to the old mayor and all sorts of people. It just depends on what we can come up with commercially because how are we going to fund it?

“The news is good, but I don’t know whether you’d have street racing because it’s not cheap to put on something that’s safe. Street racing is expensive. But if they ever get it together then we’ll see what happens. At least it’s a good sign, a step in the right direction.”

Now that the legal barriers to a London GP have fallen, we will see whether there is any real traction in the business community for such an event.

There are no countries hosting two Grands Prix currently. Silverstone has a contract for over ten more years to host the British Grand Prix. Last weekend’s event boasted the third largest crowd in the race’s history.

The Prime Minister also opened Williams’s new Advanced Engineering Facility near Oxford today and paid tribute to the F1 industry in the UK,

“Formula One is a world beating, hi-tech industry and I am very proud that Britain and British engineers and designers play such a key role within it,” he said. “Williams opening their Advanced Engineering facility in Oxfordshire is great news for the local area and a vote of confidence in our long-term economic plan to back business, create jobs and secure a better future for Britain”.

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Watching Top Gear racing in caravans, taxis and airport utility vehicles are much much MUCH more entertaining and thrilling to watch than what F1 has been doing for the past decade. The only right thing F1 did in recent years was reintroducing slicks back, everything else has been a huge turn off, and I have skipped quite a few races already, or even half seasons for the past 2 years.


Bernie uncle, if you’re listening, I have an idea – Saturn Grand Prix. (face glowing emoticon or thereabouts). Eureka! Basically, the idea is to construct a moving track on the Saturn rings – a straight that had no elevation on the lap 4 will suddenly have elevation changes on lap 45. But, oh blimey, Saturn is too large. How can we ever organize a GP on this scale? We could, err, have different regions around the saturn rig belts each year to hold the event and spice up the show. Since we’ve already experimented with ‘pimp my ride’ wheels, rocket engines aren’t too far fetched. It’ll beat Monza as the fastest track on the calender. Meteor showers will also help in artificial sparks. 😀

Track walk will be space walk, and TV coverage will truly be satellite coverage. :-D.

Just playing around – a thousand apologies.

A street race in London would be good if someone could pull it off, though.


No chance. It’s a non-starter. We are not some tin-pot country where the citizens can’t complain about the disruption this would cause.

I watched Le Tour in deepest Essex on Monday. What a mess they made of closing the roads and a bigger one reopening them after the last vehicle had gone past.


have you not heard of the london carnival or the lord mayors parade or st patricks day parade or the queen’s birthday parade where multiple cannons are fired? no one complains.


jonno, I have been to silverstone and monaco so i know that it is not a problem to hold a Grand Prix in london. There are numerous events held in london throughout the year which involve the erection of grand stands. why would ecclestone want to hold a race in london if it wasn’t possible?


Slow moving, lasting less than a day, parades. Have you been to Silverstone or any of our race tracks? Spectators are kept 30 feet or more away from the action, behind chainlink fencing, because of the danger of cars leaving the track and throwing parts all over the place.

When you find a possible circuit in London, of over 2 miles, that’s wide enough to run a race, let us know. Oh, for obvious reasons you can’t use The Mall.


I hate the idea of a London circuit, there is no way the F1 calendar would host 2 British grand prix so it would be at the cost of Silverstone, one of the greatest races on the calendar that has a near perfect racing track.

Yet more stupid politics for F1 and now with added CaMoron will only make things worse.


a large population of the nation don’t even know when and/or where the british grand prix is held because it is held out of sight but as soon as it is held in london,, nearly everyone would know about it.


i remember when regent street was closed for coulthard, button, brundle and co to drive f1 cars up and down the street. there were more people in attendance than i have ever seen at any race weekend and it was that well publicised. the helicopters estimated half a million people. based on that alone, i think it would be the most successful race weekend on the calendar if they manage to pull it off.


i remember some aspects of it so well , the roar of the engines echoing off the buildings. trouble is i dont think i caught a glimse of even one car due to the depth of the crowd. With the new silent cars it would just feel like queuing up at the post office.


they would erect grand enough stands to accommodate the audience with large streets and speakers to enhance the experience. there will be no need for excessive notices or health threatening sounds. f1 would be spectacular in london and would soon become as iconic as backenham palace.


London used to host a local circuit used mainly for Formula 2 and F3 events: Crystal Palace, a place where talents like Jochen Rindt and James Hunt came to prominence for the first time. Sadly the actual circuit closed in the 70’s but the track itself is still there, at least in part…I think that’s a more realistic option for a ‘London’ grand prix…Great history at that track.


I think a Grand Prix around London would be a bad idea.

But being able to have promo events on the roads a couple of weeks or so before F1 roles into town I think is a superb idea. A kind of F1 roadshow if you will. Get them going in major cities in the run up to countries Grand Prix.

Though people might feel a bit deceived if an old screaming V8 or V10 turns up, and they then go to the circuit to hear quiet V6’s. Maybe a current car would be better? But I’m sure that would cause problems between the teams. Maybe each team runs 1 car per city?

Either way, F1 has to go to the people, not expect the people to come to them.


I wish people would give this idea a rest, it’ll never happen, too many practical problems to add to the question of who the hell would pay for the massive roadworks that would be needed.


Keep historic circuits, please. Those are built to host races. What is the point to abound great real circuits and build artificial ones and than dismantle them again on huge costs when we are talking about cutting tests and free practices to save costs? That is not the time for crazy ideas its the time to enhance or rather rebuild the essential roots of F1 and make great racing. I am not against development, but this is not the way to go in my opinion.

Luke Dalton Esq.

Would be great! The Birmingham Super Prix was always a success! Maybe not in London though.

Although I think Labour and the Green groups would massively object! e.g. “its morally wrong, damaging to the environment, promotes dangerous driving etc etc”


Formula E* is a more likely scenario.

(*) Buemi has been quickest during pre-season testing at Donnington:


James! You missed the launch of Formula E? It was three days ago in London:

Buemi gets my fan boost.


Not it was two weeks ago in London! The test was this week at Donington – perhaps that was what you were thinking of?


Here’s the link to their fanboost page:


You’re right. My mistake. The video was published on July 8. Hence the confusion. You did write an article about it on July 1:

Here’s a little idea to finetune the fanboost:

1. They should let the fans vote for their driver of the day after each race. The top three gets an extra boost for the next race.

2. They should let you log in using your twitter or facebook. Right now they ask you to register on their site first.

All in all I am well impressed by Formula e’s approach to engage the younger audience. They’re present on social media and it looks like they’re going to have their own social platform.

F1 should take notice to both Formula E and Le Mans. Both nailed it.


Ohmy … they even have two female drivers on the grid!

Consider me a fan.

F1 is a Dinosaur.


Actually, it already happened:

I am really looking forward to this series.

They are doing everything right so far:

1. A solid and diverse field of teams with talented ex F1 drivers.

2. Low profile tyres.

3. No sound.

4. They even have a Youtube channel with shareable 1 min videos.

5. fan boost sounds crazy but it certainly is a better idea than the Double Points finale. It bypasses PR and corporate speak and encourages the drivers to be more personal with the fans. I can imagine Hamilton benefitting from this. It would have given him a REAL home advantage. I hope it works out nice.

I just hope the design of the cars will evolve from here. I don’t like the sameness of GP2. Let the engineers come up with the best design within the technical regulations.


I think we need more races in places that have no F1 tradition with lots of empty grandstands


a london race would be a huge success. we all saw how the olympics went down. boris johnson loves f1 and the financial markets love f1 so there is no reason why funding can’t be got. it’d be like hosting the olympics every year. if ecclestone wants it, he will have it.


Close the center of London for 3 days? not a chance in hell. 3 Days is the minimum need to host a Grand Prix, closing it for the marathon or the tour de france causes enough chaos but 3 days ?! including a work day? never ever ever ever. Also from a UK centric point of view I like the idea of a major event not in london surrounded by businesses not in London it’s been a thought in the uk to be less ‘London and every where else’ and Silverstone promotes this idea bring it to london and that goes against this idea!

I like the idea of a Goodwood festival of speed style 1 day event in central London at the end of the championship (and maybe in Paris and other city centers promoting the sport around the world) and I think it’s much more possible also as a way to present the world champion with there trophy I like it better than the current closed of dinner!


I would have thought it a non-starter for this reason too.

Yes Singapore works, but the government there has a tighter rule over the city. I wouldn’t think the many and varied businesses in the City and surrounds would agree to this. Some of them will, especially if they become sponsors, but getting everyone onboard would be impossible.

Or can the local government just use their authority to approve the race and not worry about the fallout? I doubt they would.

And a tourism centred argument is tenuous. Firstly London is already a tourism hub virtually all year round, and closing down parts of the city would actually hinder access to some of the popular sights, without appreciable upside.

That said – I hope it happens one day – would be quite a spectacle.


make the cars silent.

Run races in london without distubing the posh folk in mayfair.

moneyspinner to whoever is involves.

business loss and disruption to everyone else not associated with the race.


the carnival’s held every year on the posh folk’s turf without a problem. as it happens, the posh folk love f1 too.


The logistics of hosting a full 3 day GP event with practice sessions, quali and race make a race in central London highly unlikely. But this deregulation can only be a good thing for the motorsport industry – the UK is at the forefront of motorsport technology and it’s about time the Government did something to encourage it rather suffocate it with so-called ‘green’ regulations. Maybe they should realise that the fuel-efficiency technology and energy recovery systems will eventually make their way to road cars and help contribute to reducing carbon emmissions, as well as entertaining us with exciting races of course!


Just bring back brands or donington


James–off topic, though referenced in your article. What exactly is happening with Bernie’s trial? I’m sure that you or others are watching it closely, and I’m curious to know if one has a sense of the outcome?


It would be foolish of anyone to try to second guess the legal process

It’s not been well covered in the media here, occasional stories. It’s only on two days per week anyway.

Some say it’s clear he’ll get off, others that it’s not straightforward, but who knows?


eccleston’s better than tefflon.


My favourite bit was Bernie saying,

“In the past we spoke to the old mayor and all sorts of people. It just depends on what we can come up with commercially because how are we going to fund it?”

It says a lot about the business model he has created. If it’s too risky for him, why would anyone else take a crack at it?


It will never happen. They have no money for filling in the potholes!


never say never.

Rob in Victoria bc

Unrelated James, but the sooner you take the photo of the guy with the British flag painted on his face off the front page of your site, the better. I hope it won’t be replaced by a guy with the German flag painted on his face either. Thanks.


Yes, bring back the Austrian girls


here here.

Mr A (Melbourne)

Hear! Hear!

Leave the face painting to the soccer fans!


London is a logistical nightmare for all the events that have been hosted before. London Marathon, the Olympics etc etc.

I’d love to see london host an F1 round (although this move seems to have been done for the Formula E finale), but it needs to become a lot better in terms of access and commuting for this to be a reality.


I agree, not another city race with limited overtaking. What about an end of season London Cup. Something the inspires excitement and uncertainty.

Could be short lap races,reverse grids and all of that. It would allow real time testing of possible future F1 ideas before they are put into practice.

For real appeal, possibly givie teams opportunity to team up with other formula’s and mix the drivers who have to race several types of car and even bikes! I think this would generate a fantastic opportunity to attract real talent to the grid.

It can all end in a show case of burnt rubber and close racing.


G.P. in London would work in theory. But you have to take into account

A) Cost of Security.

B) The heart of Englands Parliament (yes Olympics was trouble free but this is different).

C) The centre of political protesting & civil marching.

So it would be an expensive event & I’d like to protect Silverstone as the heart of British F1 Racing.

Its not something I’d want to happen.


Thanks for replying to my above post!

Let’s face it, a race around London will not happen for the reasons I have mentioned and the reasons you have. So we’re both sort of right.

I’d agree Silverstone is the right place for the British GP, and that should stand.

Having said that, how about a European GP at, say, Brands Hatch like 1983 or 1985?

By the way, remember back in 1997 when Mr E sent a nice big cheque to the address of 10 Downing Street? Talk about a score to settle!





Two words: License fee.

French promoters/circuit owners/local government are not willing to pay the – admittingly very expensive – fee to FOM/Mr E, therefore there is no French GP. Unless a promoter/circuit owner does what the likes of Silverstone, Singapore et al do and pay Mr E up front a country won’t get an F1 race.

It’s all down to economics!


We do not need another worthless street race , we should be ensuring that proper race tracks like Silverstone retain races not lose them


Didn’t Bernie recently state Monza will be dropped at contract end?


He threatened that, if they don’t come up with a better deal

Montezemolo saw Mateschitz hosting a race in Austria, so wonders why not Mugello. While Imola would be welcome back on the calendar

But there is a spine of continuity with Monza, going right back to 1950, which would be tough to break


rome may be?


During Silverstone GP weekend, Bernie then admitted on the record to NBCSports’ Will Buxton that Monza was not in danger or under threat.

In essence, Bernie walked-back his anti-Monza threatening comments and, despite Buxton’s touching naiveté and implied relief, in doing so sounded like the cynical opportunist we know him to be in matters of F1 “bizness”.


Couldn’t agree more Rob!

While Monaco is a law unto itself, most other street circuits are as dull as dishwater. We need more classic racetracks back on the calendar not less.


Yes, we need speed!

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