Bernie Ecclestone's dream of Grand Prix in London is heading for the pits

The Formula One boss has revealed his vision for a race around the West End – but he's got a fight on his hands with the city's taxi drivers

A plan to turn some of the capital's most congested streets into a 180mph race track was veering towards the pits last night as Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone's vision for a London Grand Prix was announced. It could be the first time since 1938 that the city has hosted an international competitive motor race with billionaire Mr Ecclestone offering to provide £35m backing for the project.

Under the proposal, which was unveiled during a glitzy video presentation by Lewis Hamilton and McLaren team-mate Jenson Button at the RAC Club in Pall Mall, powerful supercars would race around a 3.2-mile circuit.

They would pass Buckingham Palace, the House of Commons and race alongside the Thames before returning via Piccadilly Circus – a route expected to take only 93 seconds.

Former world champion Mr Hamilton said: "A grand prix here would be the best thing in the world, the biggest event, sensational."

But green campaigners, business leaders and taxi drivers raised concerns about the plan, while Westminster Council, which would be responsible for the track, said it had not been consulted.

Motor sport insiders insisted it was little more than a pipe dream long-held by Mr Ecclestone. Experts pointed out that the route took in Admiralty Arch and that its three single-lane arches made it impossible for motor racing.

A similar plan to turn the Olympic Stadium in Stratford into an F1 track is currently being considered by the London Legacy Development Corporation. It is feared the street race, sponsored by Spanish banking giant Santander, could cause a month of disruption, as it does in Monaco. Previous attempts to stage the race in the capital have failed, although a demonstration event through the West End in 2004 was popular.

London Mayor Boris Johnson said he would need to be convinced of the economic case for the event, which comes amid trepidation over city-wide disruption during the Olympics. "I am broadly positive providing we can satisfy the air quality and noise issues," he said.

Backers claimed the event could net £100m for the London economy and be watched by 120,000 spectators. But Robert Davis, deputy leader of Westminster City Council, said the announcement had come out of the blue. "This is an event that would have obvious benefits to London in terms of finance and profile – but the council will wish to also put forward any concerns we receive from residents," he said.

Darren Johnson, London Assembly member for the Green Party, urged the Mayor to veto the "crazy" plan.

John Thomas, chairman of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, said his members were being hit by the imposition of route changes and rank closures as a result of the Olympics.

"This is their shop floor – it is their place of work," he said. "There will be more tourists but there will also be disruption. I just hope that whoever organises it is not the same person who organised the Olympics."

Business leaders cautiously welcomed the idea. Jace Tyrrell of the New West End Company, which represents retailers, said: "Do we want events to promote the city around the world? Yes, we do. But we need to make sure it doesn't impact on traders."

Mr Ecclestone, 81, believes the race would be a winner. "It would be fantastic, good for London, good for England – a lot better than the Olympics."

However, the announcement comes a day after a former business associate of Mr Ecclestone was jailed for more than eight years by a German court for tax evasion and bribery. The case centred on a £28m payment by the motor racing supremo made in connection with the sale of a stake in Formula One to a private equity group in 2006. Mr Ecclestone admitted making the payment but said it was to avoid being blackmailed. He denied any wrongdoing, and said he was now facing an inquiry into his tax affairs by the UK authorities.

 



News
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Life and Style
fashionLidl to launch a new affordable fashion range
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
News
people
Life and Style
techApp to start sending headlines, TV clips and ads to your phone
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
Life and Style
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment