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Ecclestone insists London GP '100% no joke'

12 July 2012

Despite Santander's glitzy proposals for an F1 race around the streets of London, made public before the British Grand Prix, being dismissed as largely unworkable, the sport's commercial supremo, Bernie Ecclestone, insists that moves are afoot to secure an event in the capital.

With Silverstone currently being in the early stages of a 17-year contract to stage the British round of the F1 world championship - a deal agreed in the wake of the Donington Park debacle - Ecclestone's claims appear not only to defy the myriad headaches posed by a street race in one of the busiest cities on the planet, but also well-stated plans to limit countries to a single appearance on the F1 schedule, highlighted by the willingness to get Barcelona and Valencia to share the Spanish GP rather than have a race apiece.

Two proposals are thought to be sitting on Ecclestone's desk, with the much-publicised Santander vision [see story here ] jostling for attention with plans to run a race through the recently-completed Olympic Park to the east of the city [see story here], and it is not entirely clear which one was being pursued when the 81-year told Britain's Guardian newspaper that the interest was serious.

"We are getting on with it," Ecclestone insisted, "It is no joke, 100 per cent completely no joke. We will see if we can make it happen."

Santander's proposal would take the F1 circus on a 5.1km journey around the heart of London, passing some of the capital's most famous sights, but has also been labelled as near impossible to pull off. Respected F1 scribe Joe Saward, amongst others, has pointed to the exorbitant cost of reworking the city streets to make them suitable for single-seater machines - removing 'street furniture' and changing the crowned surfaces for flatter alternatives at a cost of around £200m - assembling the necessary infrastructure to make a grand prix happen and then removing it again, with the associated disruption such operations would entail.

While Saward questions where the money would come from, however, Ecclestone has repeated his claim that the sport may be willing to bear some of the burden of staging what he feels would be a landmark race.

"With the way things are, maybe we would front it and put the money up for it," he offered, again flying in the face of convention where events are squeezed for ever-increasing hosting fees, "If we got the okay and everything was fine, I think we could do that."

Despite his apparent interest in the project - which conveniently comes to light just days after Silverstone struggled with adverse weather conditions that caused traffic chaos and warnings for fans to 'stay away' on Saturday - Ecclestone admits that he wasn't as squarely behind the Santander proposal as was made out.

"They showed me their idea two or three months ago and said 'it looks good, it looks exciting, it's good publicity for the British Grand Prix and Santander', Ecclestone revealed, "I said 'you're bloody right it is' and, before I knew it, I was apparently the one who was behind it. I didn't know about it to be honest, but I accepted the credit."


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