Sochi speeding up for F1 debut

It’s not all about the Winter Olympics as drivers prepare to test F1 circuit ahead of next year’s debut Grand Prix.

Vettel described the Sochi track as ‘difficult’ in a visit earlier this year [EPA]

It’s going to be a busy year for Sochi sports officials.

As Formula One continues its Asian tour and moves from Singapore to Korea, the southern Russian City, busy preparing for the 2014 Winter Olympics, has also been burning the midnight oil to prepare its new track for demonstration races taking place on Friday.

The organising team has been working day and night to make sure the Sochi Olympic Park Circuit, which is being built around the site of the Winter Olympic village, is completed ahead of the motorsport show ‘Formula Sochi 2013’.

When completed, the 3.7 mile track will become the third longest circuit on the racing calendar, behind Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium and Britain’s Silverstone.

Oleg Zabara, the deputy general director of Formula Sochi, a division of the construction company ‘Omega’ contracted to build the track, told Al Jazeera there was still some work to do:

“We are still very busy. Although the track is ready to hold the demonstration race, there is some room for finishing touches.”

“The laying of asphalt base course is completed. It’s a remarkable event for us because the racing cars will sample the track for the first time ahead of the 2014 Russian Grand Prix.”

The organising committee is trying to speed up the building process. The circuit’s infrastructure is believed to be 80 per cent complete including team buildings, the medical centre and helipad ready for use. 

The first teams to try the new track at the Sochi Olympic park will be the Swiss Sauber and Russian team Marussia.

Eighteen-year-old Sergey Sirotkin will test a 2011 Sauber car as part of his preparation for a race seat in 2014 in his first public appearance for the outfit at an F1 event.

According to Sirotkin’s manager and sports trainer Nikolay Vetrov, Sergey is all packed and ready to head off to the Sochi circuit. He told Al Jazeera: “we are currently in Moscow, stopping over for a couple of days between practices. We will fly to Sochi two days before the show so that Sergey has time to try the new track before the event. Everything is set for Sergey’s debut”.

Another driver that will take part in the demonstration event is former Caterham and Renault driver Vitaly Petrov who is chasing an F1 return. The driver’s former manager Oksana Kosachenko has recently revealed that Petrov has found the right sponsors and is intending to complete as early as 2014, although is not yet clear what team he will race for. 

Russia is building a fast and complicated circuit for the upcoming 2014 ‘royal race’. The Sochi track includes 18 steep turns and cars will be able to attain speeds up to 200 miles per hour. Three-time defending world champion Sebastian Vettel described the Russian track as ‘difficult’ and ‘unique’ when he visited Sochi earlier this year.


Although the organising committee is confident about the Sochi track, there are concerns that the Russian project might fail. Former manager of Russia’s first F1 driver Vitaly Petrov and racing expert Oksana Kosachenko thinks that the country’s luck of experience hosting major international motorsport events may have a bearing on the debut race.

She told Al Jazeera: “The development of motor sport in Russia is at the early stage. We don’t have experience hosting major international competitions as a result the organising committee is facing a wall of challenges.

“One of them is the lack of experienced staff in the country. Formula One Grand Prix requires around 600 marshals who need to be not only trained for the event but also speak English. In that case we have a big problem as very small percentage of the population can speak English.

Another pressing issue is the low popularity of motorsport in Russia.

There is no single specialised magazine and just a few people watching motorsport on TV. With the Sochi Olympics next year and traditionally high prices on accommodation in Russia, the inaugural race may leave the Russian Grand Prix without many spectators next year.

The Russian Grand Prix is set for October 19 2014 at the Olympic park in Sochi.

Source: Al Jazeera