London F1 race may get green light as government announces consultation
Jenson Button believes Formula One's "dream" of a grand prix around the streets of London could yet become reality. Twenty months ago plans for a race through the streets of the capital were aired by British Grand Prix sponsors Santander.
Using CGI technology, a 14-corner, 5.1km circuit was unveiled, incorporating notable landmarks such as Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and Trafalgar Square.
Many believed it to be a publicity stunt, although F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone threw his weight firmly behind the idea, adamant it was "no joke".
The 83-year-old even suggested putting the money up, with estimates then it would likely cost in the region of £35m. Such an event would, however, pose enormous problems, although one of those could yet be removed at some point in the near future.
The government on Thursday announced a consultation on closed-roadmotor sport events on mainland Britain which is due to run for six weeks through to 10 April.
While the primary objective is to pave the way for events such as stage rallies, sprints and hill climbs to take place on a limited number of British roads, it may also prise the door open to F1 taking to the capital.
There would still be considerable logistical and environmental issues to contend with, and understandable objection from many campaigners. But Button, who along with former McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton helped front the campaign in June 2012, is hoping something will eventually come to fruition.
"When I first saw the plans for a London Grand Prix I knew they were ambitious, but fantastic," said Button. "The thought of a race through the capital's streets was only a dream when they initiated the project, but this week's changes to the law bring the idea a step closer to reality.
"When you really picture what it would look like it's truly mind blowing. You could create such a unique grand prix through the streets of London – the roads are naturally very wide and long, so straightline speeds would be high, and you could create a real blend of corners.
"When you combine all of that with the world-famous monuments that would feature in the backdrop you can see why it would be an awesome addition to the calendar."
The new FIA-sanctioned series Formula E, with cars run via electric power, is due to take to the streets of Wembley and Stratford in June 2015 as the conclusion to the 10-race championship that commences in Beijing.
The Motor Sports Association (MSA) has campaigned long and hard for Britain to follow the lead taken by many overseas countries who have staged closed-road events for years.
The MSA acting chief executive Rob Jones said: "This is the news British motor sport has been waiting for. It represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change the landscape of our sport, allowing local communities across the country to host motor sport events and enjoy all the excitement and economic benefit they bring.
"However, to make that vision a reality we need everybody involved in our sport, from competitors and volunteers to clubs and organisers, to respond positively to the government consultation before the 10 April deadline.
"The government's enthusiasm for closed-road motor sport, and its launch of a public consultation, is the culmination of years of hard work behind the scenes.
"We now have to demonstrate the support that exists for closed-road motor sport around the country."