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Ecclestone insists London GP plans are 'no joke'

Martin Williamson July 12, 2012 « Schumacher hints at extension | De Villota's recovery 'remarkable' »
Jenson Button drives his BAR round Piccadilly Circus in 2004 © Getty Images
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When Bernie Ecclestone spoke about his desire to host a grand prix on the streets of London last month few saw it as anything more than another example of him floating a vision that was never likely to get off the ground. The more cynical pointed out the timing owed more to the need to deflect attention onto something - anything -but him in the light of the jailing of Gerhard Gribkowsky.

But speaking to the Guardian, Ecclestone insists he is serious and is already working on the scheme.

"It's no joke, 100% completely no joke," he said. "With the way things are, maybe we would front it and put the money up for it. If we got the OK and everything was fine, I think we could do that."

On the day of Ecclestone's initial comments, Santander revealed more detailed plans and it was those that whetted his appetite.

"They showed me their idea two or three months ago and said, 'It looks good. It looks exciting. It's good publicity for the British Grand Prix and Santander.' I said: 'You're bloody right it is.' And before I knew it I was apparently the one who was behind it. I didn't know about it to be honest, but I accepted the credit. I did say that if we could have a race in London, we would be prepared to pay £35m to make it happen."

Ecclestone was not drawn into specifics, and a number of aspects of the Santander proposal have already been dismissed as unlikely or unacceptable. But there are various differing options - the latest, the paper reports, an idea to race around the Olympic Park - and despite his latest bullish comments a London Grand Prix is still barely more than an idea.

Martin Williamson is managing editor of digital media ESPN EMEA

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Martin Williamson is managing editor of digital media ESPN EMEA Martin Williamson, who grew up in the era of James Hunt, Niki Lauda and sideburns, became managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group in 2007 after spells with Sky Sports, Sportal and Cricinfo