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.