The mayor of London was speaking after driving two laps of the Battersea Park circuit that is hosting the final two rounds of the Formula E championship on Saturday and Sunday.
When asked if the event was a success he would be interested in F1 coming to London, Johnson said: “I am certainly willing to look at it.” The proposal of a London grand prix has been mooted on and off since 2011, with Bernie Ecclestone known to back the idea and having offered to cover the cost of staging the event.
Johnson too has previously expressed his interest, in 2014. “I am always interested in projects that attract jobs and bring growth,” he said. “The question of air quality and noise impact will have to be looked at. I am broadly positive providing we can satisfy the air quality and noise issues.”
The Formula E race weekend has already attracted some criticism from local residents; the cars make very little noise and organisers for this race are hoping to attract 30,000 spectators on each day. F1 in contrast would have considerable volume and could host four times as many spectators. It would also require changes in the law to allow the cars to race at speed in the streets.
However, the real stumbling block facing the mayor, quite apart from the logistics of setting up the race and making it safe, would be financial. Even with Ecclestone covering staging costs, the race fee would have to be met by the city – a use of public funds that would attract considerable opposition.
The two races in Battersea Park are rounds 10 and 11 of the all-electric racing series that is in its first season this year. Ten teams are contesting the championship, which takes place on street circuits in cities across the world including Berlin, Moscow, Beijing and Miami and Johnson was pleased with his experience now it has reached the finale in London.
After his laps of the 1.81 mile track, that has been built around the Carriage Drive in the park, Johnson said it was: “Amazing. I thought I hit a squirrel at one stage.” He was also eager to praise the organisers, including Wandsworth borough council, who are not paying a fee to host the race weekend. “It’s a wonderful event for London,” he said. “I congratulate everyone at Formula E, Wandsworth have played a blinder getting it here in Battersea, let’s make sure we have it every year.”
Johnson also wanted to emphasise the green credentials of the series, which uses two battery-powered cars per driver to complete a sprint race with the drivers changing into the second-car mid race. ”It showcases our drive to get low-carbon vehicles in the streets,” he said. “We will have an ultra-low emission zone in the heart of the city by 2020, we are bringing in new green taxis in 2018, the buses are already one of the greenest in the world. It’s part of our campaign to get London going electric.”
However, local residents unhappy with the disruption to the park have pointed out that setting up and staging the race has used considerable numbers of traditional fossil-fuelled vehicles, that do little to support the environmentally-friendly message.
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