F1’s coming home!
The Black Sea coastal city of Sochi in the Krasnodar Krai region of Russia has certainly been in the spotlight over the past few days.
Last Friday (27 September), three years after the possibility was first mooted, the World Motor Sport Council ratified a date for the inaugural Grand Prix of Russia, to be held in the city of Sochi. This newest of Formula 1™ venues will host its first race on 5 October 2014.
For Sochi, the Grand Prix of Russia will merely be the icing on the cake at the end of a year of incredible sporting occasion. Next February, this relatively bijoux city of just 450,000 inhabitants will host the 2014 Winter Olympics and 2014 Winter Paralympics, the Olympic Torch for which was lit today, 65,000kms away in Greece.
At precisely the same time as the 2014 race calendar was made public on Friday, the Marussia F1 Team, the only Russian-owned team on the grid, was already in action at the Olympic Park in Sochi, around which the new Sochi International Street Circuit will weave its path.
We were taking part in the Formula Sochi event, almost 12 months ahead of our arrival for the Grand Prix proper, maintaining our philosophy of bringing more of Formula 1 to Russia, and more of Russia to Formula 1. This was our second visit to Sochi and our fourth to Russia in our Team's brief history, having competed in the Moscow City Racing event in the capital for two consecutive years.
On this occasion, it was our Reserve Driver Rodolfo Gonzalez tearing up the streets of Sochi in the Team’s demonstration car, to the delight of thousands of Russian spectators and delegates of the 12th International Investment Forum, to which the city was also playing host this weekend.
Heralding the start of a special relationship with the organising committee, ours was the first team to be shown around the new facilities that await us next year and also the first team to put the new asphalt to the test. There was also a trip to the Rosa Peak ski mountain to boot, for a touch of Olympic flavour!
Rodolfo was joined in Sochi by Marussia F1 Team CEO Andy Webb, who had this to say after an exciting and productive weekend on ‘home soil’:
“Every time we return to Russia we are thrilled to see just how much the fans here are embracing Formula 1™ ahead of next year’s inaugural Grand Prix of Russia. The level of knowledge and interest is fantastic and this makes us especially proud to be the only Russian-owned team participating in the sport. We’ve visited Sochi and Moscow on several occasions now and this is our way of showing that Russia is truly at the heart of our Team culture. We don’t just want to carry the name, we want to fly the flag - at home here in Sochi and at around 20 other international Formula 1™ destinations that we travel to every season.
“Our Reserve Driver Rodolfo did a fantastic job for the Team during the demonstration runs on Friday evening. He was the loudest and fastest on the track by some margin, with the whole event set against the stunning backdrop of the Olympic Bolshoi Ice Dome and the Olympic Park positively glowing in the late afternoon sunshine.
“From what we have seen here this weekend, Sochi will be staging an event it can truly be proud of and we look forward to playing our part in that, and hopefully achieving success on the race track. This weekend we have also had the opportunity to develop some important relationships amongst the business community at the 12th International Investment Forum, with Russian-owned companies who recognise the benefits of performing alongside us on Formula 1’s powerful international stage. All in all, this has been a very successful visit and we thank the Russian fans and the entire Sochi community for making us feel truly at home.”
Rodolfo Gonzalez commented:
“I have enjoyed every second of my participation here in Sochi this weekend. Of course, we take part in many demonstration events and relish the opportunity to show the fans what a Formula 1™ car can do, but this one feels extra special because we are bringing the Team and our sport home to Russia. It is nice to see the venue of the Grand Prix of Russia ahead of time and I think the next 12 months for this city and the Russian people will be very exciting indeed. I can’t wait to return very soon – maybe to try my hand at some Olympic sports in February!”