By Luke Smith

The old saying that "timing is everything" rang very true for Formula 1 last week. Just 24 hours after Silverstone announced that it would be breaking with its current contract to host the British Grand Prix after its 2019 race, the sport graced the streets of London for the first time in over a decade with a spectacular live event featuring car demonstrations, driver appearances and live music.

A coincidence? Perhaps. But it was unquestionably a taste of what could be in the offing down the line; an idea of what a London Grand Prix may look like - or indeed what a post-Silverstone future for F1 in Great Britain would be.

After all, does F1 really need Silverstone?

Gasps from the stalls! Scowls upon the faces of the paying public! Can you really suggest that Silverstone, the track that hosted the very first F1 race back in 1950, could possibly drop off the grand prix calendar and the sport be better for it? Perhaps it's not as unthinkable as it seems...

There can be no denying Silverstone's historical significance both to British motorsport and F1 as a whole. While it has only permanent hosted the British Grand Prix since 1987, the track is synonymous with the race, offering some iconic moments.

Critics may say that it was neutered with the removal of the Farm Straight, Bridge and Priory corners on the revamped layout in 2010, and the Silverstone Wing is perhaps a little soulless, albeit nevertheless impressive. But as a circuit, there can be little doubt that Silverstone is one of the best in the world. Realistically, it is the only permanent circuit in the UK that could possibly host F1 - so if it were to lose the British Grand Prix, finding a replacement would be very, very hard.

The reason for Silverstone triggering the break clause in its contract is simple: money. It isn't because of a lack of love for the event or low turnout or any other factors. The simple fact of the matter is the previous contract was not a good one for Silverstone. A financial hole was beginning to emerge, the track making a loss of ?4.8 million for the 2016 race. With its hosting fee set to rise by another ?10m under the escalator in its F1 contract, Silverstone could not let its heart rule over its head. Something had to change.

The challenge for F1's bosses now is how to handle it. Losing Silverstone would look like a failure for Liberty Media in the early part of its ownership of the sport - yet it would be setting a dangerous precedent were it to give some leeway on a fee for historic reasons. Every other circuit on the calendar facing any kind of financial queries would be pointing at Silverstone and saying: "They got a break, why not us?"

So while it may seem to be a simple play by Silverstone to get a better deal, with a renewed contract and place on the F1 calendar beyond 2019 inevitable, that's far from the truth.

The London event was a step towards a long-held dream for F1 and, even in its brief spell at the top of the tree, Liberty Media. The sport's new bosses, Chase Carey and Sean Bratches, have spoken time and time again about the importance of taking F1 to "destination cities", ensuring events are near the people and capturing the attention of sporting fans beyond the usual reach.

This is where Silverstone does not work as a grand prix venue. Sure, it is a permanent circuit, as are many of the tracks on the calendar. But it is a million miles from anywhere. It is not the kind of race that fans can come to from overseas with relative ease. Want to stay in London? You're looking at a two-hour drive or a train and then a taxi. There's no easy way to do it.

The race is a sell-out each year and is great for the track - even if it continues to make a loss despite reasonably high ticket prices - but in terms of a wider economic impact, it lacks the muscle that a city race would boast.

Liberty's new leading light?

So again, that is where London would benefit. It would be far more costly to stage with required road closures and logistical demands but it would automatically become a tourist race, much as events near other major capitals are. This would offer a huge economic ripple for the city and firmly put it on a global stage when it comes to motorsport and, indeed, sport. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said recently that he would be open to listening to any ideas there may be about a London Grand Prix as part of his plan "for London to carry on being the sporting capital of the world".

There isn't going to be another Olympics in London for another generation at least. The legacy of the 2012 games has been massive, but in terms of future feel-good events, an F1 race could do wonders. A yearly event where the eyes of the world are on London. That in turn may make it easier to gain government aid, particularly if the benefits prove to significantly outweigh the costs.

A London race would, however, struggle to produce the same kind of atmosphere as Silverstone. The passion the fans offer is palpable, that much being clear last Sunday when Lewis Hamilton was crowd-surfing after one of the most crushing victories of his career. There's something very British about fans heading up to Silverstone for the weekend to camp for the race and watch in the rain with a cup of tea.

But why not foster a different kind of atmosphere? Get a race in London and stage all kinds of events in the city surrounding the grand prix, a bit like the live demonstration ahead of the race last week. Make the sport more accessible, not just to those with the money to attend a grand prix. Bring the city together. Bring everything that is great about London to Formula 1, and everything that is great about Formula 1 to London.

Silverstone is a race that can never be replaced. But if the substitute were to be a street race in London, then a whole new world of benefits would emerge for the British Grand Prix. And it may just be the start of a modern, exciting chapter for one of the most historic races on the F1 calendar...



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