An audacious plan to hold a Formula One Grand Prix in and around Stratford’s Olympic Park has been pitched to the mayor of London, rivalling a separate bid to host a race in the Docklands.
Reports of the Docklands plan surfaced earlier this week after the owners of Silverstone triggered a break clause in their contract with F1, casting doubt over the future of the British Grand Prix.
Now City A.M. can reveal that more than one attempt is being made to bring F1 to the capital.
Under a rival plan, cars would race into and then out of the Olympic Stadium in east London as part of a huge seven-day festival featuring concerts and other performances centred around the event. The proposal, a copy of which has been obtained by City A.M., boasts that up to a million people could attend the festival.
Backed by a newly-formed organisation called London GP, the idea has been resurrected following a previous attempt in 2012. The people behind the bid initially lost out as Premier League football club West Ham were named as the preferred bidder for use of the Olympic Stadium, which finally became their home last season.
However, sources familiar with the plan say the F1-centred festival would take place during the football pre-season and not affect West Ham’s concession agreement with the London Legacy Development Corporation, which manages the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
“We are aware of a proposal from London GP,” a spokesperson for the mayor of London said. “However, the initial decision on whether to take forward a Grand Prix in London would need to be made by F1.”
The Stratford proposal says that 100,000 seats could be packed out with fans – 60,000 in the stadium, and 40,000 elsewhere – likely making it the biggest street race on the calendar.
A music and car festival would run from the Saturday to Thursday, after which the F1 would occupy its usual Friday-Sunday slot.
The idea has been suggested to F1 owner Liberty Media as a completely separate event, rather than a rival, to Silverstone. Liberty is open to the idea of holding more than one Grand Prix in the UK. Either way, to keep a British Grand Prix at Silverstone beyond 2019 its owner, the British Racing Drivers’ Club, needs to negotiate a fresh deal, having triggered the break clause on the current agreement.
Liberty is also considering the Docklands bid, which City A.M. understands would involve a race using roads in Silvertown, with Canary Wharf providing a stunning backdrop.
The Stratford event is in direct competition with the Docklands bid. It would include a “post-race closing ceremony with a grand spectacular concert and fireworks, with hand over to the next destination promoter on the F1 event calendar”, the proposal says. The area would be open to the general public for a set period during the middle of the week. Its backers claim it would deliver annual revenues of £82.5m and not require any government funding.
“This phenomenon in attracting new fans to the sport will be the foreground theme throughout the event and offer SuperBowl levels of entertainment to create a totally unique London GP,” the document says.
Olympic plan: Key facts
The plan looks designed to take advantage of Liberty Media’s determination to radically expand the reach of F1 following its $8bn (£6.2bn) takeover of the sport earlier this year.
“We regularly receive many bids to host a Formula 1 Grand Prix from locations around the world,” a Liberty spokesperson said.
“All bids are considered on a case by case basis, with our fans at the forefront of our minds in the decision-making process... The Silverstone contract is still in place for another three years, so we have plenty of time to assess our options. We are committed to having a British Grand Prix.”
The local economy would get a £477m boost from the festival, according to its planners, creating 3,280 seasonal jobs and helping to safeguard the Olympic legacy.
Mayor Sadiq Khan is keen on the idea of a Grand Prix in London but is demanding guarantees over environmental concerns, particularly given his focus on air quality in the capital.
“There would need to be a strong plan in place to overcome hurdles including pollution, safety and costs, but our city is used to holding big and spectacular events and the mayor is very interested in having F1 in London in the future,” a City Hall spokesperson said.
Earlier this week, when asked about F1 coming to London, Khan said: “Watch this space”.
The London Legacy Development Corporation declined to comment on the bid.
The backers of the Stratford plan declined to comment while discussions are ongoing.
City A.M. was unable to reach West Ham or Newham Council by the time of publication.