Imagine seeing a Formula One race car in your rearview mirror on your daily commute. Formula One teams descended on the British capital on Wednesday, July 12 for F1 Live London, an event to promote F1 racing ahead of this weekend’s British Grand Prix.
It’s the latest attempt by new F1 owner Liberty Media to raise the profile of the sport, and engage more directly with the public. Letting race drivers loose on the streets of a major city is a good way to do that.
As this video from YouTube user F1 YMS shows, watching a queue of F1 cars do donuts (or at least attempt to) on closed streets is pretty darn entertaining. The modern machinery was pretty impressive, but a 1990s McLaren MP4/6 raced by F1 legend Ayrton Senna arguably stole the show. Current McLaren driver Stoffel Vandoorne put on quite a show in the MP4/6, smoking the tires like it was a beater Camaro.
Nineteen of the 20 current F1 drivers showed up in London. The lone exception was Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton. Because the three-time world champion is British, his absence proved controversial. Several retired drivers appeared as well, including world champions Jenson Button and Mika Hakkinen, who shared a two-seat F1 car.
Despite the big showing in London, F1’s future in the U.K. is uncertain. Just before the event, the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC), owner of Silverstone, the track that hosts the British Grand Prix, announced that it would trigger a break clause in its contract. Unless a new deal is negotiated, Silverstone will stop hosting the race in 2019.
There is no obvious venue to replace Silverstone, putting the entire future of the British Grand Prix into question. Because the majority of F1 teams are based in the U.K., and the country has a very strong F1 fan base, the British Grand Prix isn’t just another race. Eliminating it from the calendar would be a major disappointment to fans, and the end of a proud tradition.
The BRDC claims it can no longer cope with the cost of hosting an F1 race. F1 owner Liberty Media was quick to criticize the decision, according to Racer. Boss Chase Carey said organizers would continue to negotiate to keep the race at Silverstone, but Liberty has not specifically addressed the BRDC’s claims.