Russian Grand Prix will go ahead
FIA to grant licence to Sochi Autodrom, despite security fears, economic sanctions and qualms over Ukraine crisis
The inaugural Russian Grand Prix in the Black Sea resort of Sochi will take place in September, even though there have been calls from some quarters for the race to be cancelled. Diplomatic tensions between Russia and Western powers have escalated in recent months, on account of Russia’s involvement in the ongoing military conflict in Ukraine and the loss of a Malaysian Airlines plane, believed to have been shot down by a surface-to-air missile that was launched from Eastern Ukraine.
The circuit, designed by Hermann Tilke and based around the host venues of the Winter Olympics, is nearly ready, and promoter Sergey Vorobyev insists there are no doubts about the Russian Grand Prix taking place.
“Absolutely not,” Vorobyev told F1 Racing. “First, we have the circuit [ready]. We have a contract that we will respect, and we will fulfil all obligations with Formula One Management and Mr Ecclestone. We have absolute support from local government, the federal government, the deputy prime minister, the chair of the organising committee of the Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix. We have full support and full dedication for the event.
“Sport is one thing, politics is another. Here is a major sporting event, so that’s why we don’t
comment on the political issues. In order for this event to be absolutely successful and brilliant, we are welcoming everyone to the event, and when they come here they will enjoy it.
“We already have the contract, it is on the FIA calendar, and apart from the odd voices saying various things, we have a contract for the event to go ahead.”
Earlier this year, the FIM, motorcycling’s equivalent of the FIA, called off a World Superbike race scheduled to be held in Moscow in September. But, while several paddock insiders have expressed misgivings about whether the event should proceed against such a background of international rancour – or indeed, whether it is safe to do so given Ukraine’s relative proximity to Sochi – the sport’s stakeholders are determined to proceed.
“Like I’ve said, we don’t get involved in politics,” said FOM CEO Bernie Ecclestone, who emphasised that the grand prix enjoys the full backing of Russian president Vladimir Putin. “We have a contract with them, which we know they will respect. And we will do the same.
“We shouldn’t speculate as to what could happen,” Ecclestone continued. “We will honour our contract. Mr Putin personally has been very supportive and very helpful.”
Officially, the only circumstances under which teams would be required not to attend the event is if their national Foreign Offices warn against visiting the area, thus rendering their insurance invalid. But, since the following event is the US Grand Prix, any further deterioration in relations between Russia and the US could create logistical hurdles when the time comes to move equipment from Sochi to Austin. The US government has already imposed an arms embargo, and travel freezes on certain individuals and institutions, as well as cutting off major Russian stateowned financial institutions VTB Bank, Russian Agricultural Bank and Bank of Moscow from US financial markets.
For the majority of the people working in the sport, though, the principal issue is one of safety. The promoter believes this is in hand.
“The good thing is that we have in Sochi the experience of hosting the Olympic Games,” Vorobyev told F1 Racing. “You have seen that the security was good but also very comfortable for people, so we are again using this experience in order to have the necessary level of security here. This is a resort city protected by a lot of things, like mountains and the sea, so naturally this is a safe place and our security will guarantee the event is 100 per cent safe as well.” • Read more about the preparations for the Russian Grand Prix on page 92.
Russian GP promoter Sergey Vorobyev (below) insists: “We will fulfil all obligations with FOM and Mr Ecclestone [right]”
Works at the Hermann Tilke-designed Sochi Autodrom circuit are already very close to completion