Sochi to host Russian Grand Prix, The Russians are in, who's out?, Silverstone construction on schedule
Sochi to host Russian Grand Prix
Both little big bosses FOM Executive Bernie Ecclestone and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have inked a seven-year deal for a Russian Grand Prix, to be held at the Russian seaside resort Sochi, located at the eastern shores of the Black Sea. In the past Ecclestone had his eyes on Moscow and St. Petersburg, but Sochi will now be the city to stage the Russian Grand Prix from 2014 to 2020, and the deal includes an option to extend it with another five years. Sochi will also be hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics, and therefore Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak has hinted the first race could be postponed to 2015 if it would interfere with the preparations for the Winter Olympics.
Prime Minister Putin commented about the promotion of the Russian Grand Prix: "In order to organize the work properly, we should create a management company here, in our country. It should consist of private national companies." Putin was hinting at the fact several major Russian companies will sponsor the event, the list of names include state company Rostekhnologii, mobile phone provider Megafon, oil company Lukal and aluminum producer Rusal. Putin also spoke with other representatives of Russian companies to encourage them to invest in the project, which will cost approximately $200 million.
Russian authorities are aiming to kill two birds with one stone as part of the infrastructure and facilities that will be constructed for the 2014 Winter Olympics will be reused for the Formula One project. Ecclestone is very enthusiastic about the future Russian Grand Prix, "They are trying to build an absolutely first-class facilities both for the Olympics and Formula 1. I sincerely hope that Formula 1 is going to play a big part in what I can see happening in Sochi." Ecclestone on the project added, "I was especially impressed by the idea to use all the Olympic venues after the Olympics because in all the Olympic cities I have been to so far these venues are often almost never used after the games."
Prime Minister Putin agreed with Ecclestone, "This is very important for us because we have to use everything we build for the 2014 Olympics to its fullest, including the infrastructure and hotels." Putin also said during a press conference using these facilities will dramatically reduce the costs, "It is much cheaper than building the entire track from scratch in the middle of nowhere. First, it costs less, and, second, it will fit better here and allow us to fully utilize all the facilities and infrastructure created for the Olympics. So the money will not be wasted."
The boss of Russian sportscar manufacturer Marussia, Nikolai Fomenko, recently revealed he is looking for an opportunity to enter formula One in 2012, he is currently sponsoring the Virgin Racing team. An official of the Russian Motor Racing Federation, Igor Yermilin, commented on the plans of a Russian Formula One team and said, "The signing of the agreement to stage a Grand Prix in Sochi will help put a Russian team in F1."
Russian Renault driver Vitaly Petrov is also happy with the new venue, "Almost all the drivers already have a home race so I hope that I can experience the same special feeling of racing at home in a few years' time." It of course remains to be seen whether Petrov will still be in Formula One in 2014, but his manager Oksana Kosachenko remains optimistic, "I want to reassure all the fans, Vitaly will remain in Formula One next year, and the year after and three years from now."
The Russians are in, who's out?
Ecclestone is still looking to expand his Formula One empire, recently the Indian authorities signed a deal for a Formula One race in 2011 at the Jaypee Group Circuit, and he also has several times hinted that he is negotiating a contract for a race in the state of New York (USA), and he still has plans for the return of Formula One to South Africa. As there is only room for twenty races per season, it is inevitable other venues will be replaced. The 2011 calendar with 20 races will be the longest season in the history of Formula One and includes the Grand Prix of India. In 2012 when the American Grand Prix is to take place in Austin, Texas one venue will have to be dropped, and with the Russian deal now in place, yet another race will have to be dropped in 2014.
The Silverstone circuit has secured its future by signing a contract until 2017, and also Monaco has renewed their contract this year and will be on the calendar for another ten years. Monza has a contract until 2016, last year the Hungaroring also extended their contract until 2016. The Gilles Villeneuve circuit at Montreal has signed a five-year deal (including this year) until 2014, and the European Grand Prix at Valencia should also be on the calendar until 2014.
The Grand Prix of Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, China, Germany and Turkey are the most likely candidates to be axed in favor of new venues. Attendance of the Australian, Chinese and Turkish Grand Prix has recently been poor, and this could be a good reason for Ecclestone to drop them. Regarding Turkey, Ecclestone said, "Maybe someone will decide they need a rest because it's not working for them commercially. They've built an incredible circuit and it might even be the best -- but there's not much enthusiasm from the public. I don't know why."
The circuit of Spa-Franchorchamps lost almost 5 million Euro this year and is playing with the idea to turn the Belgium Grand Prix into a bi-annual event, and during his visit to Sochi, Ecclestone has hinted the popular Belgium circuit could even lose it's Grand Prix altogether in the near future. "If it wasn't supported by the government over there it probably would go because they wouldn't be able to afford it," Ecclestone commented. Which unfortunately confirms the suspicions Ecclestone will not drop the least popular races, but the races that don't make enough money.
Silverstone construction on schedule
Circuit officials have announced the construction of the new pit, paddock and conference complex at Silverstone is still on schedule and will be finished in time for the 2011 British Grand Prix. The new facilities are part of the new long-term deal Silverstone has signed with FOM, which included a total overhaul of the circuit, and the new complex also includes new garages, a race control building, flexible conference and exhibition space, a new podium, media center, hospitality and VIP spectator zones. The new pit complex is situated on the straight between Club Corner and Abbey, therefore the pit entry and exit will also be moved to that section.
The circuit officials are aiming to provide teams, spectators and sponsors with world-class facilities and thus hope to secure Silverstone's long-term future as a race venue. Richard Phillips, Managing Director of Silverstone Circuits Ltd, is certain the works will be completed in time. "We are on schedule to meet our self-imposed completion date of May, 2011," he said. He was clear about the future of Silverstone: "This pioneering development, and the redevelopment of Silverstone at large, will provide a world-class facility where all forms of motor sport can be celebrated in style -- by competitors and spectators alike."
The complete building program started in April 2010 and it is estimated it takes 54 weeks to completion in May 2011. Currently most of the building structures are finished, right in time for the winter. The new pit and paddock building is 350 meters long, the tallest part of the building is 26 meters high, while the 'fin' on the right side of the building will be 30 meters high. Approximate floor space for the functional areas: 41 garages covering 6,200 square meters; Media Center covers 2,780 square meters; spectator and hospitality zones cover 8,200 square meters, and race control covers 950 square meters.
Pictures of the construction works at Silverstone can be found here.
Join us again next week for the weekly "Formula One: On and off track".
See also: Formula One - On and Off track week 41