The Formula One drivers putting on demonstrations in their 900 horsepower machines were given strict instructions not to perform the stunt known as a ‘donut’, a swirling pirouette amid a cloud of tyre smoke. It also leaves most of the tyre rubber on the road.
But it was too much to resist for drivers such as Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, who pressed his foot hard on the pedal and swirled in front of fans along Whitehall last night. “I didn’t do donuts — just controlled slides,” said a sheepish Ricciardo.
Mayor Sadiq Khan was also turning a blind eye to the antics. In fact, he was inspired enough to confess that a grand prix on the streets of the capital is now in his sights. He told the BBC: “If F1 want to speak to me, then I am keen to listen. My ambition is for London to carry on being the sporting capital of the world.
“There are some hurdles to overcome but I am certainly interested in the future in having F1 in London.” Of course, its not exactly the brainchild of the Mayor. The ‘London GP’ has been touted many times. And a similar event was held in the capital a few years ago.
The Formula One Live party in Trafalgar Square appears to have been a timely reminder that Formula One can be fun. There was no official estimate of how many turned out last night but officials were claiming that at least 100,000 people watched the cars screaming past some of the city’s most familiar landmarks.
Ricciardo got away with his misdemeanour, his prank the icing on a wonderful night for London and Formula One. Liberty Media, the sport’s new owner, wanted to open the door to fans for the first time with its festival in Trafalgar Square. It was a huge success, with all 10 teams brought together outside of a racetrack for the first time in the sport’s 67-year history.
If only the leading player in the sport had been there to see it. Lewis Hamilton, Britain’s three-times world champion, was the only no-show of the 20 drivers who make up the grid for this weekend’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone.
There were jeers when his name was mentioned on stage but cheers for Sebastian Vettel, his rival for the world championship, who might have feared an icy welcome after his foolish decision to drive into Hamilton deliberately at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Instead, the Ferrari driver got the plaudits – and he may get Hamilton’s job if the rumour mill is to be believed. Toto Wolff, head of Mercedes Motorsport and Hamilton’s boss, was giving nothing away but he did attend Vettel’s 30th birthday bash in Switzerland 10 days ago and more than one pundit believes that Vettel and Mercedes are a German marriage made in heaven.
Is that why Hamilton stayed away? It seems unlikely but fans will wonder why a driver who claims to adore his supporters could not be bothered to turn up at such a massive event in his own homeland.
An interview published on the morning of the F1 Live show was drowning in irony, as Hamilton claimed: “I wish there was more time to see the fans. You see them at such a distance, it sucks.”
Well, he could have had at least four hours with his fans in Trafalgar Square yesterday if he had got off the beach, or wherever he was, to join the party in the streets of London with his 19 fellow drivers, plus Jenson Button, his former McLaren team-mate, and Nico Rosberg, his old team-mate at Mercedes, both of whom flew in for the event.
As it was, F1 Live in London had only one loser – Hamilton.
However, the real business of Formula One started today, 80 miles north of London at the traditional home of the sport. Silverstone hosted the first grand prix of the modern era in 1950 but maybe just two races away from losing its biggest single event. Officials have decided to trigger an exit clause in the circuit’s contract from 2019, with losses this year expected to hit £4.8 million.