Bernie Ecclestone on Monday was on the spot at Sochi, the scene of next year’s inaugural Russian grand prix.
There had been some doubt about whether the resort city would host its first ever formula one race on schedule, following reports construction had stopped.
“It’s a fantastic track,” Ecclestone, F1’s chief executive, was quoted on Monday by the local R-Sport news agency.
“I was here before the building work started on the track and I was already impressed then,” he added. “Now I’m super-impressed with what’s going on here.”
Ecclestone, 82, met on Monday with Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Kozak.
Kozak acknowledged that Sochi’s concurrent preparations for the 2014 winter olympics had presented challenges to the scheduling of the grand prix.
“But we’ve solved all those problems and entered, in my view, the final straight,” he said.
There is good news from new F1 hosts in Texas and Russia.
Austin’s new Circuit of the Americas announced that three-day general admission tickets for its inaugural grand prix in November have sold out. US media reports said the venue estimates a whopping 120,000 spectators will attend on all three days of the race weekend.
“Worldwide fan interest has been remarkable,” spokesman Geoff Moore said.
And the Austin American Statesman newspaper said the first layers of track asphalt have been laid, concrete for the corner kerbs and pitwall poured, run-off gravel put down, and safety fencing is being installed.
Progress is also being made in Russia, despite earlier fears the resort city Sochi might not be ready for its inaugural 2014 race date. Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Kozak is quoted by the ITAR-TASS agency as saying the track will be ready for 2014, even though Sochi is also gearing up to host the winter Olympics.
“We’ll be ready to host the first Russian grand prix in October 2014,” he said in London.
There have been rumours that the Russian Grand Prix could be delayed until 2015 as the 2014 winter Olympics have been given priority over the Formula One race, however the new boss of of Sochi’s 2014 Russian grand prix project has insisted that the race plans are on track.
New chief Alexander Bogdanov commented, “There is only one objective. There is a contract signed with FOM, with Bernie Ecclestone, and my goal is to fulfil the obligations.
“There have been rumours, and one reason is that there was a kind of information vacuum,” he admitted to the Russian website Championat. “There will be no more problems like that.
“Right now is a very active phase of construction — the pits, the team buildings, the medical centre. They should be ready for the 2014 Olympics, because they will be used.
“The project is most ambitious, but it is doable and the two sides (F1 and Olympics) will help each other.”
Bogdanov said Sochi is still in regular contact with Ecclestone.
“Yes, the last one was during the British grand prix. We discussed the progress of construction and the preparation for the (Russian) grand prix. “We invited him to visit, and he confirmed his willingness to come to Sochi.”
‘Moscow’ was the word on F1 fanatics’ lips at the weekend.
On the last days off before the arduous Hockenheim-Hungary double header, Russia was the centre of the sport’s attention. Although the coastal resort city Sochi will host the first Russian grand prix in 2014, modern F1 cars and current drivers including Lewis Hamilton demonstrated their wares on a temporary street circuit around the Kremlin.
“I think Moscow has an opportunity, I hope, in the future to put on a street race,” Briton Hamilton is quoted by Ria Novosti news agency.
Also in action for the Moscow City Racing event were Charles Pic (Marussia) and Ferrari tester Giancarlo Fisichella. Moscow City Hall spokesman Vladimir Chernikov admitted he hopes it was a prelude to something more.
“Moscow really is ready to hold a Formula One stage,” he said.
Meanwhile, at Moscow’s new F1 test-standard circuit Moscow Raceway, four time world champion Alain Prost said a street race in the Russian capital “could be possible”.
“I know that Bernie (Ecclestone) and some constructors would love it,” he said.
At Moscow Raceway, Red Bull’s F1 car was demonstrated as the track made its race debut for a round of the Formula Renault 3.5 series. Russian grand prix driver Vitaly Petrov, meanwhile, showed off the Caterham, and Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo was also there.
Organisers of the first Russian grand prix are tipped to incorporate the 2014 Winter Olympics stadium into the F1 circuit.
The coastal city Sochi is scheduled to host not only the Olympics but also a grand prix in 2014, with a 5.5km circuit to be situated in and around the Olympic village. There have, however, been suggestions the race could be delayed to 2015, as the priority is the Olympics.
The respected Olympics website Around The Rings now reports that organisers could use the actual Olympic stadium, which is currently under construction, as part of the formula one circuit. Known as Fisht Olympic Stadium and uniquely shaped like a shell, the 40,000-capacity and $63 million facility is within walking distance of the Olympic village. The stadium is also touted to stage matches during Russia’s hosting of the FIFA World Cup in 2018.
Around The Rings said the stadium is being designed so that structures in place for the Olympics can be removed to allow for the incorporation of the F1 circuit.
“This is something that has emerged as a possibility,” a source in Sochi is quoted as saying. “It is an exciting possibility for Formula One.”
Preparations for the inaugural Russian grand prix in 2014 appear to have hit a roadblock. We reported last weekend that rumours were circulating in the Barcelona paddock that the Sochi race now appears “doomed”.
The state owned Moscow news agency Ria Novosti now reports that political issues have created “serious delays” in the race’s preparations, according to an adviser with the Russian Automobile Federation.
The official, Igor Yermilin, insisted that the project is not doomed, but he said very few efforts have taken place following the bureaucratic reshuffling of the local Krasnodar region. He said some officials of the Omega company, responsible for the F1 circuit project, have lost their jobs.
“In the Krasnodar region there has been have been quite serious changes in the leadership,” Yermilin said, “including people from Omega who signed the contract on holding the Russian grand prix”.
The coastal city Sochi is also scheduled to host the 2014 Winter Olympics.
“The main thing at the moment is the Olympics — the grand prix is on the back burner,” said Yermilin.