CGI Middle-East based group Dar draws up plan for Royal Docks redevelopment and F1 grand prix plan

Formula One racing could come to London as part of £250m Royal Docks redevelopment

Eat your heart out Monaco

Plans for a Formula One motor racing track in the centre of London have been revitalised as part of a project to develop the Royal Docks area into a new waterfront destination.

If the £250 million plan goes ahead, the “London Grand Prix” could join the Formula One calendar as soon as 2026, according to reports.

Designed to “maximise overtaking”, the new track has been likened to the Circuit de Gilles-Villeneuve in Montreal. The proposed 3.64-mile circuit in London’s Docklands would feature 22 corners and an average speed of 127mph.

From floating grandstands, around 95,000 spectators could watch some of the world’s best drivers racing along the Royal Albert and Royal Victoria docks before turning around the ExCel centre – already the home of Formula E’s London ePrix.

Talks have already been held between consultancy firm Dar and built environment experts LDN Collective, who are behind the project, the Greater London Authority, which owns most of the land in the area, and Formula One owners Liberty Media.

Max Farrell, chief executive of LDN Collective told The Times: “There’s a general level of support for the idea. Obviously, there’s a lot to work to go through in terms of the practicalities and the planning, but if the political will is there, we believe that this is a very credible and deliverable proposition.”

It’s expected that private investment will also be needed to bring the multi-million pound project to life. Dan Horner, Dar’s director of planning and urban design, told The Times that the group has already spoken to investors and proposed financial models that would make a healthy return on investment, with 22 “revenue-generating units” planned.

Formula One would be part of the offering but the site would also be developed as a leisure and entertainment hub for the rest of the year. The vision is that the East London site would become a hub for sports and recreation, with plans for cycling tracks, running paths, playgrounds and tennis courts, as well as several bars, restaurants and hotels.

A planning application by Dar and LDN could be submitted within the next 12 months, with the group confident that with planning consent, the site could be ready to host a grand prix by 2026. 

It’s not the first time the concept of a London Grand Prix has been proposed, with Bernie Ecclestone previously pledging £35 million to stage the event on London streets. The former F1 boss shelved the plans in 2007 after it was deemed too expensive, with little to no prospect of support from central government despite backing from Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London at the time.

It’s still not known where the London Grand Prix would fit into the Formula One season. The British Grand Prix at Silverstone is already one of Formula One’s most historic races, held at the circuit every summer since 1950. Many of the sport’s best teams are also based nearby, including Red Bull Racing, Mercedes and Aston Martin.

With such a strong connection between Silverstone and Formula One, it’s hard to imagine the British Grand Prix ever moving to London. It’s more likely that the London Grand Prix would join the calendar alongside the Silverstone event.

There are a record 23 grands prix this year, though there were plans for 24 before the Chinese GP in April was ruled out due to ongoing Covid-19 restrictions. That suggests adding an extra race into the schedule is feasible and would not be resisted by the teams.

It wouldn’t be the first time that two races have been hosted in the same country on separate circuits in the same season. Austria, Bahrain, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Spain, the UK and the United States have all held two Grands Prix in various seasons.

The United States and Italy are the only countries to have hosted three races during a season, in 1982 and 2020 respectively. This year America gets a third race once more: the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix will take place in November, joining the Miami Grand Prix and the United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of The Americas, Austin.

Britain hosted the European GP held as a separate round to the British GP at both Brands Hatch in Kent (1983 and 1985) and Donington Park in Leicestershire (1993).

Interest in F1 is at an all-time high thanks to the popular Netflix series Formula 1: Drive to Survive, which follows the highs and lows of the sport in documentary-style. The popularity of the show has opened it up to new audiences around the world, with many attributing the resurgence of Formula One in the US in particular to the show.

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