Is London going to be hosting F1 street races?

The notion of Formula One racing taking place on the streets of central London has been around for a while now, and new laws currently being rushed through Parliament may mean that a London Grand Prix to rival those in Monaco or Singapore could very well become a reality within the next few years.

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone first unveiled his plans for a London Grand Prix back in 2012, and a demonstration event on Regent Street in 2004 attracted a crowd of several thousand. World champion Lewis Hamilton is another vocal supporter of the idea.

[E]cclestone’s proposed route would cover 3.2 miles, starting on the Mall then running up St James’s Street to Piccadilly, where cars would reach a top speed of 180mph as they raced towards the Wellington Memorial. They’d then pass Buckingham Palace, speeding down Birdcage Walk to Parliament Square and taking in the Palace of Westminster and the Houses of Parliament before turning onto Victoria Embankment. With the London Eye looking down from the far bank they’d head up to Trafalgar Square, passing Admiralty Arch as they embarked on another of the proposed 59 laps.

The event would cost £35m to stage but could earn well over £100m according to its supporters, with 120,000-280,000 fans paying between £60 and £1000 for tickets. The global TV audience could reach a billion viewers, and advertisers would be charged £10m apiece. With that kind of money at stake, it’s no wonder that Mayor of London Boris Johnson and Prime Minister David Cameron have also got on board.

Currently, local authorities can temporarily close roads but they can’t suspend speed limits or other road safety laws, making motor racing untenable. All of that is set to change if the Deregulation Bill currently passing through Parliament becomes law, and it seems the Prime Minister is keen for it to get the royal assent before the next election.

Not everyone is happy about the proposals, however. Green London Assembly member Darren Johnson said a London Grand Prix was a terrible idea, citing environmental concerns. While broadly supportive, Boris Johnson has said that air quality and noise pollution need to be considered before the idea is given the go-ahead.

General safety is another major concern, of course. It’s one thing high speed motor racing taking place in a course that’s built for the purpose, another in a historical urban environment where people have to live and work. F1 safety has been a major concern of late, as discussed in this Max Mosley Q&A session.

The economic benefits aren’t so clear-cut either. Shops and businesses along the route could be closed for over a week, and whether they’ll be compensated for their losses hasn’t been mentioned yet.

As for London’s cabbies, they’ll be glad of the extra business the influx of tourists, professionals and spectators will doubtless bring. However, closing central London for eight days or more is the kind of chaos and disruption they really don’t need.

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