It has been announced today by Bernie Ecclestone and Vladimir Putin that the Russian Grand Prix has been confirmed to take a place on the Formula 1 calendar, from 2014 onwards. The race will take part at a circuit in Sochi, which has yet to be built. This city also happens to be the host of the 2014 Winter Olympics.
The track will be designed by Herman Tilke, at a cost of $200m, and Bernie Ecclestone is charging $40m to host the race. However, it cannot be confirmed at this time if that payment will be the same each year.
Vladimir Putin confirmed the deal today to Reuters, saying: “We have reached an agreement with the principal owner of Formula One that Sochi would host the Russian Grand Prix from 2014 to 2020.”
With this, the Indian GP next year, US GP in 2013, and the Rome GP to be announced whenever the deal is signed, this could mean that the Formula 1 calendar could be extended to up to 23 races by 2014.
Russia has become heavily involved in Formula 1 this year, with most of the credit going to Vitaly Petrov. New sponsors such as Vyborg Shipyard (which just so happens to be Petrov’s home town), Flagman, and Lada have been brought on board at Renault, which owns 25% of AvtoVAZ, the parent company of Lada. This huge commercial interest sparked rumours several months ago about a race in Russia, and Bernie Ecclestone has not made it a secret that he wanted a race there.
As always, I look forward to new races, but with Herman Tilke on board you can never be sure what you end up with. I was hoping that the track would be made by Populous, the company that worked on the Silverstone redevelopments (and are working on the Sochi Winter Olympics sites very close to the proposed track), but unfortunately this has not happened.
The main concern would be about the fact that several races now must be dropped, as the F1 calendar surely couldn’t stand 23 races per year. Personally, I think Catalunya, Valencia, Hungary, Germany and Bahrain could be dropped, but we will have to wait and see over the next few years.