Bernie Ecclestone postpones Russian GP night race

15/03/2014
NEWS STORY

After months of posturing and predictions the 2014 Formula One season is finally upon us. However, even at this late stage, it seems that the calendar is still set for change. Recent reports suggested that the Russian Grand Prix would be held at night but Bernie Ecclestone has now confirmed this isn't the case after all according to an article in The Independent by Christian Sylt.

The inaugural Russian Grand Prix will take place in October in Sochi on a track which will already be very familiar to television viewers. It will snake around the venues which hosted this year's Winter Olympics and were illuminated by a huge fireworks display at the end of the Games.

Ecclestone wanted F1 to share in that glow this year but he says that when he met Russian president Vladimir Putin last week the decision was taken to host the first night race in 2015. This is because its calendar slot will be brought forward next year and the race will instead take place during Russia's holiday season which will give it even more attention.

"I was going to get them to light the whole place up but they are going to wait because the next race will be early next year so they want to do a big number," says Ecclestone. "It's definitely not a night race this year but it will be next year. Earlier in the year is a good holiday period for them. That is the reason and I think they have had a lot of nonsense to go through with the Olympics."

The bill for hosting the Olympics came to an estimated £30bn and has left Sochi with facilities which are ideal for F1. It has 47,000 hotel rooms and an airport capable of handling up to 3,800 passengers per hour which is four times its previous capacity.

Most of the Olympic venues are being re-purposed for grass-roots training and leisure use. The F1 facilities are already nearly finished and the pits and paddock complex was used by the Olympic administration during the Games. Last week Putin said that F1 "allows us to use the infrastructure more effectively once these big competitions come to an end."

Former Toyota F1 team manager Richard Cregan is in charge of the Sochi F1 project but Putin is its driving force in Russia. Ecclestone has spent well over a decade trying to bring a Russian Grand Prix to the F1 calendar and initially considered sites in Moscow and St Petersburg. However, it took a personal connection with Putin for the project to finally get the green light and Ecclestone has become one of his strongest supporters.

Ecclestone says there is "no danger" to the race from Ukraine's dispute with Russia and adds that F1 may soon be driving into another troubled region. It was recently speculated that Ecclestone had struck a deal to bring an F1 race to the streets of Baku, capital of the oil-rich country of Azerbaijan, which sits at the crossroads of western Asia and eastern Europe.

As Pitpass reported it isn't the first time that a race in Azerbaijan has been discussed and although the talks are more advanced now than ever before, Ecclestone confirms that a contract has not been signed. "Baku is a government thing," says Ecclestone. "Normally they need to get four different people to sign something and trying to get them all together is not easy."

One location which is not so fortunate is Thailand. A race on the streets of its capital Bangkok was due to debut in 2015 and was backed by Thai billionaire Chalerm Yoovidhya who has a close connection to F1. His family are the majority shareholders in the energy drinks company Red Bull which of course owns four-time F1 champions Red Bull Racing.

The brakes were put on the Thai Grand Prix last year when Bangkok's government passed a law banning car racing in the city's historic district. Nevertheless, Ecclestone is still hopeful that a Grand Prix there will see the light of day. "Bangkok was all going to happen, ready to sign then they had a bit of trouble out there and they changed their law," says Ecclestone adding "it's on the backburner." Time will tell whether he can work his magic on yet another group of politicians.

Article from Pitpass (http://www.pitpass.com):

Published: 15/03/2014
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