2014 F1 season
The first ever Russian Grand Prix will be held as part of the 2014 F1 calendar.
Bernie Ecclestone has signed a deal for F1 to race at a circuit in Sochi, where the next Winter Olympics are being held, in 2014.
The addition of another Grand Prix means the F1 calendar could have as many as 23 rounds by 2014.
Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin confirmed the deal, telling Reuters: “We have reached an agreement with the principal owner of Formula One that Sochi would host the Russian Grand Prix from 2014 to 2020.”
According to The Times, $200m (£126m) we be spent building the Sochi track and Ecclestone will charge $40m (£25m) for the rights to hold the race.
Update: A Russian news site claims a 5.5km track has been designed by Hermann Tilke and has published an image.
Update 2: Thanks to Andres in the comments for posting a link which appears to show the track map is authentic.
The expanding F1 calendar
Russia’s arrival in 2014 means three new races are being added to the F1 calendar in the next four years.
The Indian Grand Prix arrives next year, stretching the calendar to new lengths, hitting 20 races for the first time. That will be increased further with the arrival of a new United States Grand Prix at Austin in 2012 and the Russian Grand Prix two years later.
Add in the proposed new race in Rome expected to be confirmed within the next few years and the F1 calendar could have 23 Grands Prix by 2014 if no other races leave the calendar in that time.
Motor racing in Russia
Ecclestone has long harboured desires of tapping into the Russian market, saying in 2001: “It is the FIA Formula One world championship and it’s about time we had a round of this championship in Russia.”
Russian participation in international motor racing is has increased in recent years. Vitaly Petrov became the first Russian to compete in F1 this year.
He has attracted Russian sponsors to Renault in the form of Vyborg Shipyard and Flagman vodka. Renault also carry the logos of Lada, the Russian car brand owned by AvtoVAZ, which Renault own 25% of.
Several F1 demonstrations have been held in Moscow, including one in each of the past three years, with Petrov and Jenson Button appearing this year:
Another Russian, Mihkail Aleshin, won the World Series by Renault last week.
There has already been a Russian team in F1, albeit briefly – Midland Group re-branded the Jordan team in 2006, but sold it to Spyker later that year.
There have been several previous attempts to arrange a Grand Prix in Russia. Plans for races at St Petersburg and Nagatino Island all fell through.
Populous, who did the recent circuit design work for Silverstone, created an F1-ready track plan for a project near Moscow but the private investment company behind the plan never built the track.
Populous are also developing venues for the Sochi Winter Olympics, including the main event stadium.
The Smolensk ring opened earlier this year, hosting a round of the European Truck Racing championship in August. However it does not have the necessary licence to hold F1 races.
Location of Sochi
Read more: Fresh rumours of a Russian Grand Prix
Image © Renault/LAT