It is the Silly Season for more than just the drivers in Formula 1 at the moment, with much excitement about the idea that a Formula 1 circuit could run in and out of the Olympic Stadium in London. It may not be a bad idea to jump on the publicity bandwagon as the Games gear up, but the key question is whether or not anyone has actually looked at the stadium.
The idea is being championed by a company called Intelligent Transport Solutions Ltd, which is headquartered in a residential building in the London suburb of Wanstead. It does not smack of vast sums of money. The plan is to some extent logical. The Olympic infrastructure is brilliant, but it would have been a great deal easier to turn it into a race track after the Games had someone considered designing the roads with this in mind about five years ago. This is what is happening on the Olympic site in Sochi. This means that any circuit would need to be reverse-engineered, or perhaps one might say “botched”.
The Olympic Park has some potential for a circuit. The venue would be great for transportation, because of all the rail links built into it for the Olympics. There are existing roads that flow around the site but the rivers would pose some problems as some of the bridges are unsuitable for F1 cars. The International Media Building is an obvious pit facility.
The stadium is not very useful. It is set into the earth on an island, which means that the circuit would have to cross at least two bridges. It would have to enter the stadium below ground level. There are four tunnels that disappear into the stands, each is 10 metres wide. The average F1 track is 30 percent wider than that. Two of the four tunnels simply link with one another under the grandstands and go nowhere. The main tunnel in the north east of the stadium emerges with a small river right in front of it. To the right there is a narrow road then climbs up to reach the main public level. This would need to substantially widened if it was to be used by F1 cars.
One entrance however is not enough as the cars need to both enter AND leave the stadium. The only possibility is therefore the central tunnel in the south of the stadium which does emerge about 80 metres from the stadium floor. That would require the drivers going through a 10 metre wide corridor the whole way, as there are important supporting columns that make it impossible to widen the track until it is completely clear of the stadium. That means that while it is possible to go in and out of the stadium, there is very little point in doing so. In order to sell seats in the grandstands there would need to be something to look at and there is precious little space inside. The cars would be arriving slowly and spread out because of the access problems and that would mean there would be no room to create an overtaking places. While the whole building covers an area of 314 metres by 250 metres, the actual playing area is much smaller, being around 170 metres in length and a maximum of 100 metres wide.There would be no room for the pits and no possibility of any serious overtaking, the best option probably being a hairpin, a kind of flat version of the Station Hairpin at Monaco.
But would 60,000 people be happy to buy tickets to see just that?
Even if all the conversion work could be done relatively cheaply, there is still the question of who would pay for the annual conversion of the site into a race track and also who would pay the race fees.
It is not impossible for there to be a race track on the Olympic site, but it is improbable, although the people in Wanstead – whoever they may be – may have high hopes.