Formula 1 machines take to the streets of the capital for this very special fan event
F1 Live London brought Formula 1 to the streets of Britain’s capital city for a party no one wanted to miss – with one notable exception…
For 13 years London has been deaf to the sound of Formula 1, save for occasional (and fanciful) rumblings about hosting a grand prix on its streets. But on the eve of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, the nation’s capital paused to enjoy the sight, sound and smell of F1 cars for the first time since Nigel Mansell led an eightcar demo run up Regent Street in July 2004.
F1 Live London ran on a much larger scale, and was an encouraging sign of intent from the sport’s new owners. Sets by musical acts Bastille, Little Mix and the Kaiser Chiefs within a larger F1 expo in Trafalgar Square added a festival vibe to the on-street action that was of such scope it was all planned in total secrecy and announced only 48 hours beforehand. Mindful of the potential for mischief by the kind of people Donald Trump would call “the bad guys”, the London authorities made it clear that if advance word leaked out, they would pull the plug.
So while some fans were irked by the lack of notice and consequently unable to attend, in Trafalgar Square and Whitehall the numbers built all afternoon, peaking at 100,000 (according to Formula One Group) as veteran racer René Arnoux kicked off the street demo with two laps in the 40-year-old Renault RS01, F1’s first turbo machine. F1 Racing wouldn’t dispute that crowd figure, having had to stake out a vantage point two hours in advance.
All but one of the current F1 drivers came and performed for the crowd. Daniel Ricciardo thrilled by performing donuts – despite strict instructions to the contrary in the drivers’ briefing – and Sebastian Vettel drew cheers for his spirited attempt to ‘drift’ his Ferrari around the Charles I Statue. And if Lewis Hamilton’s absence was felt and commented upon by the opinionati, he more than made up for it at Silverstone four days later…
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is shown around the Trafalgar Square expo (right), while F1 fans line the surrounding streets to see their heroes in action