Ecclestone Makes London Lucrative Grand Prix Race Offer
F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone made London an offer that "it might not be able to refuse" when he offered to pay a £35M ($54M) staging price for a grand prix in the city, according to Kevin Eason of the LONDON TIMES. The proposed race "could be the biggest and richest motor race in the world." Marketing experts predict that a London race would generate a minimum of £100M ($155M) from spectators and tourists over a three-day weekend. Sports marketing agency BrandRapport Dir Nigel Currie said, “Maybe it would be two or three times that £100M. It could be a commercial bonanza for Formula One and London" (LONDON TIMES, 6/28). The BBC's Andrew Benson asked, "What's not to like? Who doesn't think it would make one of the most spectacular sporting events the world has ever seen?" That is "clearly what the PR agency, which represents one of McLaren's biggest sponsors, was thinking" when they invited the media to a lavish event at London's RAC Club Thursday. The event included "an expensively produced video" and a "virtual race was staged around the track." Within F1, the idea of a London race in such circumstances has been greeted with "intense scepticism." One senior figure said, "Of course it's not going to happen. You know that, and so do I. But it makes a great story, doesn't it" (BBC, 6/28). The DAILY MAIL's David Kent reported that Ecclestone believes the race would be "even more impressive than the Monaco Grand Prix." The event could become "the richest race in the world" with around 120,000 fans filling the grandstands around the capital's most famous landmarks along the 3.2-mile route with a potential global TV audience of a billion. Ecclestone said, "With the way things are, maybe we would front it and put the money up for it. If we got the O.K. and everything was fine, I think we could do that" (DAILY MAIL, 6/28).
PLENTY OF APPROVAL: In London, Eason reported that Mayor Boris Johnson has "given his qualified support" for the London Grand Prix plans. Johnson said he was "broadly positive" about the idea, provided that air and noise pollution are addressed. Johnson said it was critical to see if there was "a really good economic case" for the race. Johnson: "I am always interested in projects that attract jobs and bring growth" (LONDON TIMES, 6/28). The GUARDIAN's Paul Weaver reported that former British F1 driver Stirling Moss said that he has been "waiting for more than half a century" for a London Grand Prix. Moss said, "I think it would be tremendous for London and for our sport and it would bring an enormous amount of money in. When you get a whole lot coming in where expense doesn't really matter, it's an enormous filler." Modern British drivers think the idea could happen. Driver Lewis Hamilton said, "I was looking over the city and a grand prix here would be the best thing in the world, the biggest event." McLaren teammate Jenson Button said, "Personally, I do like the idea of having a London Grand Prix. Yes, the more grands prix in the U.K. the better" (GUARDIAN, 6/28).
SKEPTICS REMAIN: REUTERS' Alan Baldwin reported that the model of the track, designed by leading architects Populous, "made light of an obvious problem" as it threaded through the monumental Admiralty Arch off Trafalgar Square. That would be "very much an accident waiting to happen," given that ordinary traffic goes through its three narrow arches in single file on the way to the Mall and Buckingham Palace. There is "no way around it" (REUTERS, 6/28). The GUARDIAN's David Batty reported that Populous examined the feasibility of staging a race in London and determined the event "would not cause major disruption," taking five days to set up equipment and three to take down (GUARDIAN, 6/27). The London INDEPENDENT's Jonathan Brown reported that "motor sport insiders insisted it was little more than a pipe dream long-held by Mr. Ecclestone," and observers fear the race course through city streets "could cause a month of disruption, as it does in Monaco" (INDEPENDENT, 6/28).