Plans for a grand prix in Copenhagen are qui­etly gath­er­ing pace. F1 Rac­ing scouts the Dan­ish cap­i­tal’s likely track lay­out


We travel to the Dan­ish cap­i­tal for a sight­see­ing tour of a pro­posed new For­mula 1 street cir­cuit

HOLY pas­tries! A Dan­ish grand prix! For­mula 1 on the streets one of the green­est, most pro­gres­sive – not to men­tion beau­ti­ful – cities in north­ern Europe? How un­likely is that?

In a word, ‘very’, but with F1’s new own­ers hav­ing drafted a mar­ket­ing strat­egy that has ‘DES­TI­NA­TION CITIES’ neon-lit across its top line, some­thing quite won­der­ful might be about to hap­pen. Yes, Copenhagen has been iden­ti­fied as pre­cisely the kind of host town that would add lus­tre and cred­i­bil­ity to Lib­erty Me­dia’s am­bi­tious pro­mo­tional plans for their ban­ner cham­pi­onship. (No sur­prise that Red Bull, those arch-mar­ke­teers, have been here al­ready, in the form of a 2012 David Coulthard street demo.)

And with a lo­cal hero, Kevin Mag­nussen, re­main­ing a punchy pres­ence at Haas, there has prob­a­bly never been a more op­por­tune mo­ment to bring For­mula 1 back to Scan­di­navia for the first time since 1978. That year, Swe­den’s An­der­storp cir­cuit staged the Swedish GP for the last time (it had been a cal­en­dar reg­u­lar since 1973) and the world cham­pi­onship hasn’t ven­tured so far north ever since.

Times are chang­ing, how­ever, and the con­sor­tium be­hind the Dan­ish GP pro­posal reck­ons to have se­cured cross-party po­lit­i­cal sup­port for the project, as well as fund­ing pledges – from both the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tors. The am­bi­tious scheme is be­ing led by 67-year-old for­mer gov­ern­ment min­is­ter Helge San­der – a one-time jour­nal­ist who, among other achieve­ments, brought six-day track cy­cle rac­ing to Denmark in the 1970s.

His lat­est sport­ing pas­sion is four-wheeled, how­ever, and over a kaffe in Copenhagen’s Chris­tians­borg Palace – Denmark’s main par­lia­ment build­ing – he ar­tic­u­lates his vi­sion: “In Denmark, we would at­tract fans from a lot of coun­tries, be­cause of our ge­o­graph­i­cal lo­ca­tion. The whole Scan­di­na­vian re­gion, for starters, but we’re also within easy reach of north­ern Ger­many, Hol­land, Poland and the UK. Copenhagen is a city that peo­ple want to visit any­way, so com­ing here for a grand prix should just be an added at­trac­tion.”

There’s an echo here of sen­ti­ments ex­pressed ear­lier this year to F1 Rac­ing by Shaikh Mo­hammed bin Essa Al-khal­ifa, a se­nior mem­ber of the Bahraini royal fam­ily and one of those who hatched a plan back in the early noughties to bring For­mula 1 to the desert king­dom. The Arab re­gion lacked a blue-riband mo­tor­sport event, de­spite its ev­i­dent pas­sion for fast, ex­pen­sive mo­tor cars and its huge cash re­serves. The Bahrai­nis set about fill­ing that vac­uum, much as San­der and his al­lies in­tend to do, some 3,500 miles fur­ther north.

San­der ex­plains that the idea for a grand prix in Copenhagen had per­co­lated at the back of his mind for sev­eral years, be­fore be­ing “sparked” in 2014 by the sight of K-mag scor­ing a podium fin­ish, on his F1 de­but for Mclaren.

Since then, he has gripped, grinned and called in favours to se­cure what he claims is the broad sup­port nec­es­sary for a city-centre grand prix in a coun­try ruled by coali­tion govern­ments.

Denmark’s Min­istry of In­dus­try Brian Mikkelsen is one se­nior fig­ure to have of­fered his bless­ing: “We have dis­cussed this project with pri­vate in­vestors for some time,” he says, “and we’re now talk­ing openly about it, be­cause

I think it looks more and more re­al­is­tic. F1 would give Copenhagen enor­mous brand­ing.”

San­der has also gained the back­ing of an in­flu­en­tial fi­nancier, Lars Seier Chris­tensen, who has pre­vi­ously com­mit­ted cash to F1 through the in­volve­ment of his self-started pri­vate fi­nance house – Saxo Bank – with the Lo­tus F1 team.

Switzer­land-based Seier, an ac­tive so­cial me­dia par­tic­i­pant, makes no se­cret of his fundrais­ing role. On 6 Novem­ber 2017 he posted an In­sta­gram pic­ture of him­self with F1 CEO Chase Carey and Chloe Tar­gett-adams, F1’s Global Di­rec­tor of Pro­mot­ers and Busi­ness Re­la­tions. ‘The ef­forts to bring For­mula 1 to Copenhagen con­tinue!” he cap­tioned. “Good meet­ing this morn­ing with Chase Carey, For­mula 1 CEO and ex­ec­u­tive chair­man, and Chloe Tar­gett-adams. #dan­ish­f1­grand­prix #won­der­ful­copen­hagen #formula1 #makei­thap­pen’.

Seier told F1 Rac­ing: “I’m op­ti­mistic about this. It’s com­plex, but there’s very gen­uine in­ter­est and it feels like there’s a lot of gen­eral sup­port among the pop­u­la­tion for this. The most im­por­tant thing for us is to se­cure the fund­ing: ball-park $70-80m.”

His lat­est meet­ing fol­lowed a visit by San­der to F1 HQ in June and a sub­se­quent trip to the Sin­ga­pore GP. The Asian tour was an op­por­tu­nity to fur­ther dis­cuss cir­cuit and busi­ness plans and for San­der to gain a first­hand un­der­stand­ing of what goes into mak­ing a street race suc­cess­ful.

Sin­ga­pore, of course, is some­thing of a poster­child for ‘mod­ern’ F1. It nec­es­sar­ily lacks the her­itage of a Spa or a Monza, but since 2008 it has con­fi­dently oc­cu­pied its own place on the cal­en­dar, de­liv­er­ing on its am­bi­tious ‘night race’ cre­den­tials with some panache.

It has also ben­e­fited from the some­what sin­gu­lar na­ture of Sin­ga­porean pol­i­tics: it’s a city-state with an in­ter­pre­ta­tion of democ­racy that would be deemed au­to­cratic by west­ern lib­er­als. So a rul­ing party wish­ing to ‘get things done’ – such as stage a night race on the cap­i­tal’s streets as part of a grand tourism and pro­mo­tional plan – faces fewer chal­lenges than might, say, a rul­ing coali­tion in Denmark.

“We are aware of the chal­lenges,” says San­der, “but we have some cre­ative ideas.”

Chief among these is to des­ig­nate the Dan­ish Grand Prix as ‘The Green GP’. How so? The ra­tio­nale is that by clos­ing two of Copenhagen’s three ar­te­rial bridges to ve­hi­cles for the du­ra­tion of a grand prix week­end, nor­mal traf­fic vol­umes would be slashed. The city’s new metro sys­tem, due for com­ple­tion in 2018, should be fully op­er­a­tional in time for the pen­cilled-in Dan­ish


GP date of sum­mer 2020, and all teams and driv­ers would be com­pelled to travel to the cir­cuit by pub­lic trans­port.

At a stroke, crit­ics of F1’s eco-cre­den­tials would find an an­swer to their main point of op­po­si­tion: host­ing a grand prix would re­duce Copenhagen’s car­bon emis­sions for a few days.

This kind of cre­ative think­ing un­der­pins the vi­a­bil­ity of the project. Un­like any pur­pose­built rac­ing fa­cil­ity, a street cir­cuit has none of the es­sen­tial op­er­a­tional el­e­ments that al­low a race to go ahead: no pits, no pad­dock, no me­dia centre, no of­fice build­ings.

Some el­e­gant so­lu­tions have al­ready been posited, how­ever. The F1 pad­dock might be lo­cated in a square be­hind the par­lia­ment build­ing (the ‘Bor­gen’), that’s cur­rently used as a real pad­dock area for the royal fam­ily’s cer­e­mo­nial horses. A me­dia centre could eas­ily be ac­com­mo­dated within the par­lia­ment build­ing it­self. As for the pits and garages, tem­po­rary struc­tures would have to built, as they are in Baku for ex­am­ple. A likely lo­ca­tion is an area be­hind the Dan­ish po­lice HQ that’s light on lo­cal res­i­dents.

On pa­per, the plan looks com­pelling and F1 Rac­ing’s tour of the pro­posed lay­out con­firmed one as­pect of its de­sign above all: it would be an in­sanely quick track. Its 3.6-mile an­ti­clock­wise length is essen­tially two very long straights punc­tu­ated by a wide 90-de­gree left-han­der and two slow ‘back­street’ sec­tions. It has been sketched right into the heart of Copenhagen, past the afore­men­tioned ‘Bor­gen’, along­side the old stock ex­change, be­neath the el­e­vated walk­ways of the na­tional li­brary and past the for­bid­ding ex­te­rior of Po­lice HQ. Tourist hon­ey­pots such as the dream­ily pic­turesque Ny­havn are skirted, as is the (in)fa­mously lib­eral Chris­tia­nia dis­trict. For­mula 1 won’t have en­joyed so much free love and weed since the ’60s if this race gets the nod.

Kevin Ma­gussen’s dad, Jan, the ’90s grand prix racer of some re­pute (though lit­tle suc­cess), has had in­put into the de­sign, as has F1 ar­chi­tect

du choix Her­mann Tilke. The re­sult­ing course prompts spec­u­la­tion that their cre­ativ­ity may have been en­hanced by some of Chris­tia­nia’s finest, for there’s cer­tainly lit­tle ap­par­ent re­straint in their plan. By way of anal­ogy, imag­ine a London GP that ran over West­min­ster Bridge past Big Ben; or a New York GP pass­ing through Times Square; a Moscow GP with a Red Square pad­dock; a Paris GP with a Champs-elysées main straight. The Copenhagen cir­cuit blends com­pa­ra­ble land­marks into a sin­gle loop and Kevin Mag­nussen, for one, is rather agog at the po­ten­tial.

Orig­i­nally from Roskilde, 20 miles from Copenhagen, but these days liv­ing in the cap­i­tal, K-mag strug­gles to equate F1 Rac­ing’s cir­cuit map with the streets he knows as a na­tive: “For me, this is two sep­a­rate worlds joined to­gether: my home and For­mula 1. They have al­ways been sep­a­rate for me: you go away to a race… so for F1 to come to my home is go­ing to be sur­real.” Sur­real… and quick. “It would be ridicu­lously fast,” Mag­nussen grins, “and re­ally it’s hard for me to imag­ine driv­ing around these streets, be­cause think­ing about it I can’t see a track here. But ob­vi­ously it’s go­ing to change a lot with dif­fer­ent Tar­mac, walls, kerbs and so on.”

We ask if a left-hand kink roughly half-way down the main straight would re­quire a one-gear down­shift (brak­ing be­ing ob­vi­ously su­per­flu­ous). “No way!” protests Kevin. “It would be flat all the way from here [the right-hand turn onto Hans Chris­tian An­der­sen Street] to here [the 90-de­gree left that turns the track back on it­self and through hip­ster-chic Chris­tians­borg].”

So while the pu­ta­tive Copenhagen City Cir­cuit wouldn’t boast the most so­phis­ti­cated or tech­ni­cal to­pog­ra­phy, it would in­clude two clear heavy brak­ing zones, which would there­fore pro­mote pass­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“The brak­ing at the end of the straights would be mas­sive,” con­firms Mag­nussen. “There would be a lot of pass­ing at this grand prix.”

For the race to hap­pen, many plan­ets in the F1 uni­verse must align: fi­nan­cial prom­ises need to be made liq­uid; cal­en­dars ra­tio­nalised; po­lit­i­cal ac­com­mo­da­tions reached. But with suf­fi­cient cash and good­will, it may yet be­come real.

“No one in Denmark would ever have be­lieved some­thing like this could ever hap­pen,” says Mag­nussen. “It’s not even as if we’d fi­nally have got some­thing we’d wished for – be­cause no-one has even been tak­ing about it un­til re­cently. But I can tell you, if it does go ahead, it would be un­be­liev­ably spec­tac­u­lar. I think ev­ery Dane in the coun­try would head for Copenhagen.”

6 Chris­tians Brygge straight 7 Fred­erik­sholm canal 9 8 Lange­bro cross­over Ham­bros­gade chi­cane

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