This summer could well be a truly historic one for sporting events in London. The thrill of hosting the 2012 Olympic Games aside, the city could join an elite list of locales around the world that have the privilege of hosting a Formula 1 race, if the sport's supremo, Bernie Ecclestone, has his way.
Ecclestone, who is also overseeing the equally historic flotation of the sport on the stock exchange, has reportedly re-raised the idea of a Formula 1 event around the streets of London - a race that will see Ferraris, McLarens, Red Bulls and Mercedes beasts zip past some of the most significant architectural landmarks in the history of Western civilization... a spectacle that could truly be breathtaking and that could rob the Monte Carlo Grand Prix of much of its present glamour.
The Daily Mail reports that the normal cost of staging a Grand Prix, is about £35mn but Ecclestone is reportedly so eager to see a race in the capital city that he has waived the fee, believing the spectacle could attract as many as 120,000 people and generate over £100mn in revenue!
With the way" things are, maybe we would front it and put the money up for it," Ecclestone told the Guardian, "If we got the OK and everything was fine, I think we could do that." Meanwhile, the sport's commercial head also stressed on financial benefits not only for the city but also England at large, pointing out that the revenue a single Formula 1 race generated would be far in excess of anything else happening this summer.
"Think what it would do for tourism," he added, speaking to the Guardian, "It would be fantastic, good for London, good for England - a lot better than the Olympics."
The estimate of 120,000, incidentally, is only trackside. The Daily Mail report speculates a worldwide television audience of a billion people - a feasible number, given that you'll get to see Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Nico Rosberg zip past the Big Ben, St James and the Parliament building, along with other fantastic landmarks.
In fact, the proposed track will circle a historic landmark at every turn. The 3.2m circuit will start at The Mall before heading past The Ritz, around Wellington, Buckingham Palace, the barracks, Birdcage Walk, the Palace of Westminster and then along the River Thames (with the London Eye in the background) and finishing with a sharp left hander at Trafalgar to complete the lap. The estimated lap time is in the 1:40.000 bracket and the top speed would be just shy of an insane 180mph, down Piccadilly.
Meanwhile, the support for Ecclestone's idea has come pouring in from all quarters, both within the sport and outside. McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton was one of the first to jump on board. The British former world champion was in London, along with team mate Jenson Button, Manchester United centre back Rio Ferdinand, television presenter Melanie Sykes, Olympic gold medalist Amy Williams, radio presenter Sarah Jane Crawford and comedian Al Murray, as part of a star-studded launch party, organised by Ecclestone, to announce the idea.
"A grand prix here would be the best thing in the world, the biggest event, sensational. They (track designers) never approach drivers to have any input into the design of circuits. But I would be very, very open to help in any way if they are planning to do it, to give advice on curves and corners and parts we should be going through. It would be insane," Hamilton said, the Daily Mail reported, at the event. Meanwhile, there has also been support, albeit cautiously, from London Mayor Boris Johnson, who was quoted in another Daily Mail report.
"I am always interested in projects that attract jobs and bring growth. The question of air quality and noise impact will have to be looked at. I am broadly positive providing we can satisfy the air quality and noise issues," the mayor added, also stating the event would only go through if there was a "really good economic case" for it.
The London Grand Prix is still a pipedream. There is an enormous amount of spadework to be done and people to be persuaded before any sort of concrete work can begin on the idea. However, given Ecclestone's history of not taking "no" for an answer and the sheer financial scale of it all, it could be reasonable to expect that there is a very real chance Hamilton, Button and the McLaren team, along with other British drivers and teams will celebrate a second "home" Grand Prix, after the race at Silverstone. Incidentally, the next stop on the Formula 1 calendar is at Silverstone. Coincidence?