The inaugural “F1 Live London” is likely to be considered a smashing success, after an all-day event that took over Trafalgar Square and later featured a car parade in Whitehall.
The brainchild of new Formula 1 owners Liberty Media, the quickly organized and announced takeover was meant to bring the field together before this weekend’s British Grand Prix up the road at Silverstone (times across CNBC, NBC Sports app here).
And certainly while the event would wow hardcore Formula 1 fans, the mix of events – a STEM-focused presentation for youngsters started the afternoon before the car demonstrations and live music took over in the evening – the draw was always meant to engage new fans, which is part of Liberty Media’s goal. The event was live streamed on Formula 1’s official website and on its YouTube channel, something that would have been hard to foresee in the previous era of leadership.
“This is the start of the new regime – taking it back to the people that love Formula 1,” Ross Brawn, Managing Director, Motor Sports, said on stage during one of the interviews before the cars ran.
“This is so encouraging to us. When we see the support that these events create. These guys are the heroes, but we need to bring them out and show them a lot more than in the past. It’s so motivating to see them out there. It’s amazing to see here in London!”
Besides the field of almost all 20 drivers – Lewis Hamilton was a notable no-show on holiday (more on that in a separate post) – the number of F1 luminaries also included the last two World Champions who’ve moved on from full-time driving in Nico Rosberg and Jenson Button, past Renault veteran Rene Arnoux, and a host of British drivers turned TV pundits in Martin Brundle, David Coulthard, Damon Hill, Johnny Herbert and John Watson.
“It’s absolutely amazing – look at this!” Button exclaimed in his interview. “We need to say a big thank you to you guys. Having you guys here makes it for us. The ‘F1 LIVE LONDON’ is fantastic. Most of you are Formula 1 fans and excited about the Grand Prix, but I’m guessing we’ve got some here who weren’t going to Silverstone. Kids doing pit stop practice which is amazing.
“So thanks to this guy (Brawn)… not for the World Championship, but for making this happen. It’s the first time every single team present at an event that isn’t a Grand Prix. It’s so special for London and for Formula 1.”
Arnoux’s presence meant there were, in fact, 20 full drivers on the stage when the presenters introduced the field as he joined Renault’s full-season drivers Nico Hulkenberg and Jolyon Palmer. Palmer, somewhat keen to appreciate the moment, joined Arnoux in a throwback firesuit as the only British driver present ahead of the British Grand Prix.
The demonstration laps that ran featured some key highlights. Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, in particular, wowed the crowd with a smoke show through his run in the previously all conquering Red Bull RB7 chassis, the car that Sebastian Vettel drove to a dominant World Championship victory in the 2011 season.
Vettel also impressed the crowd in his run, and certainly gained some new fans on a day when his championship adversary loomed large by his absence.
Some of the photos – there was no way to capture all of them – are below on what was a great afternoon and evening for the sport.
In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.
Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.
Stepping out of the car is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, @FollowAndretti is my family and I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options. pic.twitter.com/KXNjitpLSF
“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.
“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.
“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”
Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.
“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”
Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.