28 June 2012
Q&A - Lewis Hamilton on F1 in London
Lewis Hamilton shares his thoughts on Santander's vision for a Formula One race around the streets of London
What does the London Grand Prix by Santander mean to you?
It really captures my imagination. Racing up The Mall, along Piccadilly – how many fans would be there? How cool would the atmosphere be? Would the Queen be watching? I'd give her a wave on the way past. That'd be pretty neat…
The film has really drawn lots of thinking together, from a possible route to the practical logistics and having spent some time helping assess and develop the circuit, I have to tell you that this race would be utterly epic.
You cannot fail to miss the amount of thought and expertise that Santander has put into plan. When you make a movie you have to transport the audience into the world you're creating. It has to feel authentic. The London Grand Prix by Santander isn't just a few mark-ups on an A to Z, it's almost a living thing. There's even a transport plan for how spectators would get in and out, where we would park our race trucks, how the pits would fit in with the environment. The concept is inspiring but it also stands up to close scrutiny too.
Growing up, I always wanted to win the Monaco Grand Prix. But the feeling you get from winning at home is something special. A London Grand Prix could easily become just as iconic as Monaco. There's so much history here. It'd be a race I'd really want to win.
You've appeared in a Hollywood film [Cars 2]. How did making this relate to that?
Making the London Grand Prix by Santander was a great experience. I'd recently seen Iron Man 2 on the plane and there's a sequence where Robert Downey Jr. is working with a big 3D hologram of a city. To arrive on the set for our film and be doing something similar was special, a real piece of movie magic. Shooting it was really easy. For the live action filming, we had just one set - the Roca Gallery London in Chelsea, so we didn't need a big crew. The creativity and attention to detail that has gone into it is incredible. Every bump in the road is there and we mapped it all out in our race simulator. When we say 'Ritz is a second-gear, 40mph corner,' we know that because we've done it in the most accurate simulator there is. Populous know how to design race circuits because they worked on the re-development of Silverstone, and they understand how drivers see things. This is a credible film as well as a spectacular one.
What makes London special as a venue?
This year everyone is excited about London, with the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics. It's a great time to show what we can do in our capital city – that it's a place with so much history but also one that's dynamic and always changing. Going round the circuit in the simulator, you pass buildings like Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament, which have been there for hundreds of years, and the London Eye which is much newer and the circuit route ties this most dramatic backdrop – maybe the most dramatic of any city in the world - together with an incredible race track. It would definitely cement London's position as a sporting mecca if Santander's vision was realised.
Where do you see the main overtaking opportunities?
You'd be going over 190mph down the Santander Straight, maybe more with the DRS [Drag Reduction System] activated, then at the end of it you go down four gears from seventh to third and lose some speed for the sequence between Buckingham Palace and the fountain. We're still talking 85mph here so you'd need to be brave and precise, but it can be done. After that, the Parliament Complex and Big Ben are taken in second gear, so cars could close up a bit, then you need a good drive out of Big Ben, down the Embankment and into Santander corner. That's going from around 180mph in top gear to around 40mph in second gear, a big opportunity for passing.
So London or Silverstone?
I'd like to be greedy and have both. Why not? Some other countries have two races like Spain and Germany, and arguably the UK makes an enormous contribution to F1, so I reckon that would be completely justified. Silverstone is more than just my home race, it is a giant of a circuit, a real racer's track. The idea of a London race presents a completely different possibility and it would be great to reward our home fans with two races, wouldn't it?
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