"A lot better than the Olympics." That was Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone’s contentious opinion about how a London Grand Prix would benefit Britain, apart from the thrill of seeing Ferraris taking Hyde Park Corner at top speed.
Ecclestone was outlining his ambitious plans for a Formula One race around the streets of London, passing landmarks like Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square. The Monaco Grand Prix through the streets of the Principality is already one of the biggest attractions in Formula One. Ecclestone believes London would be even more of a draw.
"Think what it would do for tourism," he told The Times. "It would be fantastic, good for London, good for England – a lot better than the Olympics." His plans suggest it would attract a global TV audience in the tens of millions, and generate as much as £100m for London's economy.
Ecclestone has been keen on the idea of a London race for a long time, and in the present economic climate realises that public money is unlikely to be available. Instead he is prepared to meet the costs, estimated at £35 million, himself. "With the way things are, maybe we would front it and put the money up for it. If we got the OK and everything was fine, I think we could do that."
Feasibility studies suggest the course would take five days to set up and three days to dismantle, drawing the rather inconsistent conclusion that this would not cause major disruption to London’s traffic. Whether the Formula One cars would be liable for the congestion charge was not made clear.