Lewis Hamilton on London Grand Prix by Santander
Q: What does the London Grand Prix by Santander mean to you?
A: It really captures my imagination. Racing up The Mall, along Piccadilly – how many fans would be there? How cool would the atmosphere be?
The film has really drawn lots of thinking together, from a possible route to the practical logistics and having spent some time helping assess and develop the circuit, it would be a pretty special track.
Growing up, I always wanted to win the Monaco Grand Prix. But the feeling you get from winning at home is something special. A London Grand Prix could easily become just as iconic as Monaco. There’s so much history here. It’d be a race I’d really want to win.
Q: You’ve appeared in a Hollywood film [Cars 2]. How did making this relate to that?
A: Making the London Grand Prix by Santander was a great experience. Shooting it was really easy. For the live action filming, we had just one set - the Roca Gallery in Chelsea, so we didn’t need a big crew. All the budget is up there in ultra high fidelity on the screen.
The creativity and attention to detail that has gone into it is incredible. Every bump in the road is there and we mapped it all out in our race simulator. When we say ‘Ritz is a second-gear, 40mph corner,’ we know that because we’ve done it in the most accurate simulator there is. Populous know how to design race circuits because they worked on the re-development of Silverstone, and they understand how drivers see things. This is a credible film as well as a spectacular one.
Q: What makes London special as a venue?
A: This year everyone is excited about London, with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics. It’s a great time to show what we can do in our capital city – that it’s a place with so much history but also one that’s dynamic and always changing. Going round the circuit in the simulator, you pass buildings like Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament, which have been there for hundreds of years, and the London Eye which is much newer. The circuit route ties this most dramatic backdrop – maybe the most dramatic of any city in the world – together with an incredible race track.
Q: Where do you see the main overtaking opportunities?
A: You’d be going over 190mph down the Santander Straight, maybe more with the DRS [Drag Reduction System] activated, then at the end of it you go down four gears from seventh to third and lose some speed for the sequence between Buckingham Palace and the fountain. We’re still talking 85mph here so you’d need to be brave and precise, but it can be done. After that, the Parliament Complex and Big Ben are taken in second gear, so cars could close up a bit, then you need a good drive out of Big Ben, down the Embankment and into Santander corner. That’s going from around 180mph in top gear to around 40mph in second gear, a big opportunity for passing.
Q: So: London or Silverstone?
A: It has to be Silverstone at the moment because it's real but I would love there to be one in London. Why not? Some other countries have two races, like Spain and Germany, and arguably the UK makes an enormous contribution to F1, so I reckon that would be completely justified. Silverstone is more than just my home race, it is a giant of a circuit, a real racer’s track. The idea of a London race presents a completely different possibility and it would be great to reward our home fans with two races.