Central London Grand Prix off, says Ecclestone

FORMULA ONE boss Bernie Ecclestone has revealed that his plan to hold a Grand Prix on the streets of London is unlikely to get off the grid because the government will not provide the multi-million pound support required.

Ecclestone unveiled lavish plans for a race route snaking past some of the capital’s most famous landmarks, including Big Ben and Nelson’s Column, in June, but feels he has now reached a roadblock.

“I don’t think the government would be prepared to put the required amount of money behind it,” Ecclestone said.

Ecclestone has committed to supporting the race financially rather than simply charging a hosting fee, which usually rises to £35m annually. However, the cost of building grandstands and readying roads for F1 would still run into eight figures, and the government would have to cover some of this cost.

“We would make a large contribution towards the race,” Ecclestone added. “That is whatever it takes to get it done with all the permissions. We could help the government and council with their costs.”

Ecclestone dismissed the possibility of hosting a race around the Olympic Stadium – one of four plans being considered for the venue – insisting a street grand prix was London’s only viable option. “We wouldn’t go to the Olympic Park,” he said. “I don’t think anybody [else] is serious about a grand prix in London.”

Ecclestone believes the success of the London 2012 Olympics should remind government of the value of staging elite sport.

“I think they did a good job with the Olympics,” he said. “It is the first time I have been proud of England. They showed that England can do it if they have to. The population was behind it. I just think that Formula 1 could do the same job for a lot less.

“Let’s look at the worst-case scenario, which they wouldn’t need to, and say a race in London costs them $50m (£31m) a year. Over 10 years that is $500m (311m). What is that as a percentage of the £10bn they spent on the Olympics? And you are going to get good coverage for 10 years.

“When you think really and truly, the F1 industry is British. We have won more world championships [than the foreign teams] and it is not government supported at all.

“The Olympics got incredible coverage in England. They got 28m viewers for the opening, which is near half the population, so it was good. And even that guy who ran very quickly, 22m watched him. It is unbelievable.”

F1 is the world’s most-watched annual sport, with 515m viewers last year. The Olympic men’s 100m final attracted around 1bn viewers.

FERRARI chiefs have denied reports that world champion Sebastian Vettel is poised to join them from Red Bull in 2014.“I’ve always said I don’t want two roosters in the hen-house,” said principal Luca Di Montezemolo on the possibility of Vettel joining Fernando Alonso. “I don’t like that and it creates instability.”

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