London close to staging F1 thriller



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F1 track for London Image: MJR Group Ltd./Coliseum

F1 is coming to London and it is closer than ever to staging a Formula One race after funding was secured to build a circuit in the City’s East End.

The ‘Daily Mail’ stated that it understands that the US investment firm 777 Partners are working with a UK sports group on plans to host a Grand Prix and develop a new sports and entertainment complex at the Royal Docks in the borough of Newham.

Formula One (also known as Formula 1 or F1) is the highest class of international auto racing for single-seater formula racing cars sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA).

Royal Docks is a riverside industrial district that’s home to ExCeL London, a huge events venue hosting high-profile exhibitions and trade shows. Next to the center, business hotels sit alongside stylish restaurants dishing up Asian and European cuisine. The London City Airport serves domestic and European routes, while the Emirates Air Line cable car offers panoramic views of the financial district’s iconic skyline.

The consortium has been in talks with F1 about introducing the London Grand Prix to the race calendar in addition to the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. The proposal has the full support of the London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, who wants to bring F1 to the UK capital London before his second term ends in 2024.

Stated Josh Wander, Founder of 777 Partners, who also owns the Italian football club Genoa, “We are hopeful that it is coming. We are hugely excited about it. There will be an electric atmosphere as the greatest athletes in the world, along with an international fan base and the world’s largest companies as sponsors, descend on the Docks for race weekend. More importantly, we will build a world-class sports and entertainment complex that can serve the community year-round and revitalize the surrounding areas. It is the type of thing you really can’t quantify until it actually happens, but the impact is dramatic.”

The ‘Daily Mail’ further stated that London has long been mooted as a potential F1 venue, with previous proposals including a race taking place in the City’s most famous landmarks, such as Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square.

But, two years back it was reported that the Royal Docks -home of events venue ExCeL London – had emerged as the most pragmatic site and that plans are at an advanced stage.

Sources insist that the intention of the Docklands Circuit is to host a second annual race in the UK rather than to wrestle the British Grand Prix away from Silverstone, which has a contract until 2024.

The British Grand Prix is a Grand Prix motor race organized in the United Kingdom by the Royal Automobile Club. First held in 1926, the British Grand Prix has been held annually since 1948 and has been a round of the FIA Formula One World Championship every year since 1950.

The 1,50,000-capacity Silverstone Circuit is a motor racing circuit in England (UK), near the Northamptonshire villages of Silverstone and Whittlebury. It is the current home of the British Grand Prix, which it first hosted as the 1948 British Grand Prix.

The project was delayed last year because of the COVID pandemic, but it is now firmly back on the table with Khan hoping to make it the centerpiece of his major regeneration project in East London.

To counter environmental concerns, Khan’s vision is that a London Grand Prix will be a carbon-neutral event and the first F1 race to be accessed only by public transport.

Unmesh Desai, London Assembly Member for City and East and a close ally of Mayor Khan, said, “It is about opening up East London. There is so much potential and that is why Formula One wants to be involved. They believe in us and we believe in them. It is a two-way partnership. When Formula One and other major events come to East London, it will show that we are now firmly on the map. I am more than hopeful. It will happen.”

Investment firm 777 Partners have already shown their commitment to East London by buying the London Lions basketball team, who play at the Copper Box Arena at the 80,000-capacity Olympic Park in Stratford, as well as further investing in community and elite basketball facilities in the area.

Miami (US)-based Wander referenced his latest venture when he addressed Council and business leaders at an event at London’s City Hall recently, telling them he wanted “sport and entertainment to act as an accelerant for the inevitable move East in London”.

Observed Wander, “We believe the project itself is going to completely reinvigorate and transform the community. It brings the short-term excitement of a world-class race limited to the world’s premier Cities – but at the same time we have the opportunity to create a sustainable long-term impact for the community and the surrounding areas.”

Although a Grand Prix in the capital still needs to be signed off, F1’s owners Liberty Media have previously spoken of their ambition to bring more races to ‘destination cities’ such as London.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said this year that “racing in London would top everything” and he hopes to “get that going”, and his Red Bull rival Christian Horner said it would be “fantastic”.

In an interview following his re-election as Mayor in May, Khan said, “We’re speaking to Formula One and they’re really receptive. It would be great to have a Grand Prix in the capital City. I’m keen to bring it as soon as possible.”

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