The Russian Grand Prix is still one of those races that feel quite new and maybe even exotic for most Formula 1 admirers. Here’s what I have really experienced this year in Sochi, Russia.
The political (and actual) climate
The political situation more often than not keeps people from visiting Russia, although FIFA World Cup has proved that you have nothing to fear there. Sochi is one of the most touristic places of the country, and as said by visitors from the USA even looks very much like Los Angeles sometimes. I know that this might be a hard pill to swallow, especially for valley people.
The Russian race was moved to September, which probably is the best month to come to the seaside of this country. An amazing mix of sea and mountains makes this place worth a visit among your other Formula 1 trips – just check the Google photos.
One thing international companies are frequently afraid of dealing with in Russia is the organisational systems. This year, it was nothing to worry about, and the teams as well as promoters have finally agreed on that.
Having two Russian racers during a Formula 1 weekend raised the fan excitement levels through the roof.
Sochi Autodrom did everything they possibly could to attract more fans this year, starting from opening a retro car museum right in the main grandstand building and bringing Russia’s most popular pop and rap singers, to organising carts, EA games and even football experiences all over the Olympic Park, where the circuit itself is located.
Unfortunately, there were some lows as well. Queues for the tickets and pit walks made fans furious at times. This was the first year when local organisers decided on not opening any additional ticket centres apart from two main ones in Sochi and Moscow. People had to wait for hours, however. Annoyed fans were claiming that after coming for a few years in a row they were very disappointed to see something like that happening.
The public was also brought to Sochi not only for seeing legends like Kimi and Fernando, four-time world champions Lewis and Sebastian alongside talented youngsters Charles and Esteban, but more importantly Russian driver of Williams F1, Sergey Sirotkin, who got a stand named after him recently. Also, two other Russians Artem Markelov, driving for Russian Time in Formula 2, who had a chance to drive during Friday practice in Formula 1 for Renault, and GP3 driver Nikita Mazepin.
Having two Russian racers during a Formula 1 weekend raised the fan excitement levels through the roof. That wasn’t everything though. Toro Rosso announced that another Russian driver Daniil Kvyat is re-joining Formula 1 as a pilot for 2019.
Sochi is one of the most touristic places of the country, and as said by visitors from the USA even looks very much like Los Angeles sometimes.
He’s coming back to Formula 1 racing and to the Red Bull system after spending a year in Ferrari. It’s worth mentioning that we’ve never seen him actually wearing a Ferrari suit. On Saturday, he arrived to the paddock wearing normal jeans and shirt.
Unfortunately, the Russian GP is still not very popular among international celebrities. There were still a few interesting people visiting the paddock this weekend: Russian pop-star Sergey Shnurov, President of Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, a few former Formula 1 drivers, Bernie Ecclestone, Chase Kerry, and architect Hermann Tilke were easy to meet.
Mr Tilke was quite impressed with Russian fans and the whole Grand Prix for that matter. I got an opportunity to have a brief chat with him in the paddock.
“I like it very much here in Russia. They did a good job with the Grand Prix, and it’s really fantastic”, he noted a few times. “The fans are great, really great. Many of them are true, sincere Formula 1 experts, and I love it. They are very enthusiastic. We definitely had a lot of changes in Formula 1 recently, and in general I like it all, except maybe for grid girls. But I feel like it’s leading us in the right direction,” Mr Tilke said.