Will a London Grand Prix get the green light?

Will a London Grand Prix get the green light?

Could the streets of London soon be reverberating to the sound of Formula One cars as thousands of spectators pack into temporary stands along The Mall? That is certainly the hope of some after Silverstone decided to cancel their contract to hold future races. But, is a London Grand Prix a real possibility or a flight of fancy?

Why is this even being discussed?

The British Grand Prix is normally held at Silverstone in Northamptonshire. However, the track has set the cat among the pigeons by activating a break clause in its contract with Formula One and will stop hosting the race after 2019.

Unlike races in other countries, Silverstone receives no government funding and the costs of hosting the grand prix has become too much for the circuit which is privately owned by the British Racing Drivers' Club. Club chairman John Grant said: “This decision has been taken because it is not financially viable for us to deliver the British Grand Prix under the terms of our current contract.

"We sustained losses of £2.8m in 2015 and £4.8m in 2016, and we expect to lose a similar amount this year. We have reached the tipping point where we can no longer let our passion for the sport rule our heads."

However, Grant hasn't ruled out a change of heart should the contract negotiations with Formula One be reopened. He said: "Our hope is that an agreement can still be reached, so that we can ensure a sustainable and financially viable future for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone for many years to come.”

It is likely that a compromise between Formula One and Silverstone will be reached at some point but at the moment F1 are playing hardball. The sport's chairman Chase Carey told the BBC there is "interest from other places, other UK options that would have appeal".

One of those options is a grand prix around the streets of London with the east end being talked about as a possible venue. But, for a Formula One race to actually happen in London it would take a tremendous amount of planning and money.

Is a London GP even feasible?

Given the lord mayors crusade against pollution the idea of 25 high-powered fossil fuel burning racing cars roaring through the capital’s streets may see the idea torpedoed before it even gets off the drawing board.

However, even if the mayor, other local politicians and Formula One themselves wanted to plough ahead and hold a race there would still be enormous financial obstacles to overcome.

Every grand prix in the world championship series, except the British race, has government support to help meet the huge cost of hosting the event.

Though F1 bosses closely guard the actual fees, just buying the licence to host a grand prix runs into many millions of pounds with Russia estimated to pay more than £50million to host their GP. Then there is the added cost of building and maintaining a track together with all the infrastructure which goes with it.

Holding a British GP on a street circuit in the capital would undoubtedly be a cheaper option but simply raising the licence fee would be unfeasible without support from central government.

But, in these times of financial austerity and cutbacks, it is unlikely the government would hand over tens of millions of pounds despite the worldwide publicity the race would generate.

So, how likely is a London GP?

Firstly, it is highly unlikely the British GP will be allowed to die. Even in a sport ruled by its love of money there is a recognition that the tradition of grand prix racing in the UK should be respected.

The first ever world championship grand prix was held at Silverstone in 1950 and the vast majority of Formula One teams are based in the UK. The number of British world champions and the fervent support of the public would also suggest everything possible will be done to retain the British Grand Prix.

But, the number of possible venues for a race are severely limited. Of the two traditional venues in the UK Silverstone is digging its heels in and Brands Hatch isn't fit for purpose. With no other race tracks in the country the only alternative would be a street circuit.

Given that premise London would be the logical solution. However, the smart money is still on a compromise being reached between F1 and Silverstone leaving the possibility of a London GP very much a pipedream.

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