Rus­sian Grand Prix will go ahead

F1 Racing - - INSIDER -

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

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