Friday, 15 October 2010

Russia GP a reality

Say what you like about Bernie, but he's nothing if not persistent.

It appears that a Russian Grand Prix will be on the F1 calendar in 2014. This after three decades of trying on the part of Bernard Charles Ecclestone.

For most of this time there has been plenty of talk of a Russian race, visits by Bernie and apparent resolutions, all of which turned out to be false dawns. Indeed, a Grand Prix in the Soviet Union, to be held on the streets of Moscow, appeared on a provisional F1 calendar as long ago as that for the 1983 season (after a visit to the country by the same Bernie in 1982), only to be scuppered by various bureaucratic machinations. As it was, the first Grand Prix in the Eastern Bloc was in Hungary in 1986, who had proved to be more accommodating.

Momentum for and interest in a Russian/Soviet race seemed to be diluted for a while after that, despite the occasional murmur. That was, until the turn of the millennium. In the noughties more venues were touted and advanced to varying degrees before petering out, including in Moscow (again), St. Petersburg and Pulkovo Airport. For many onlookers the prospects of a Russian Grand Prix were ranked somewhere alongside that of a Grand Prix in New York - another ubiquitous but apparently unattainable venue in Bernie's vision.

However, it was announced today that the Black Sea resort of Sochi will host the Russian Grand Prix between 2014 and 2020 after agreeing a deal with the self-same Bernie. He tends to get what he wants in the end.

The track will wind its way through the park that'll hold various events in the 2014 Winter Olympics. This means that various facilities and infrastructure, such as those for the media, will already be there (neat stuff). No doubt it'll be a gleaming, spectacular facility with all mod cons, and by the looks of things there will be a few quick, challenging corners in there as well.

This of course is less good news for some of the existing races on the calendar. It remains to be seen what the upper limit is on the number of races in a single season, but assuming it's finite, and with India, Austin and now Russia on the way in, many will be looking at their places on the calendar, and the likely financial settlement Bernie will offer in a seller's market, with some trepidation. There's also an issue of the extent to which F1 will be welcomed in Sochi - there has been environmental and social controversies around the Olympics, and this may rub off badly on the F1 race.

One Russian who will be happy is Vitaly Petrov. The confirmation of a future Russian race may just tip the balance in favour of him being retained at Renault for next season.

Bernie, no doubt, has by now turned his attention to making the New York race a reality...

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