Russian GP moves to St. St. Petersburg

Russian GP, from Sochi to St. Petersburg with $83mm for improvements

Hermann Tilke calls St Petersburg’s Igora Drive racetrack his best creation, but completing the Russian GP by 2023 will cost about $83 million. The move from the Sochi Autodrom to Igora Drive, how interesting is that for F1 fans?

The Igora Drive Autodrome was designed by Hermann Tilke and replaced Sochi, which has hosted Formula One since 2014, with the Winter Olympic Games that same year. St. Petersburg is continually battling for the title of Formula One circuit and host of the Russian GP.  At the end of 2020, the FIA awarded the Igora Grade 1 status. This made it the second ever Russian host of a Formula 1 Grand Prix. However, despite its external appeal, the circuit does not have the right experience to host the World Championship. Igora was due to host the rallycross stage in 2020, but the event was cancelled due to covid-19 restrictions.

Igora Drive racetrack
Igora Drive racetrack 2021

Russian GP’s new target for 2023.

Igora is located 54 km from St Petersburg and only 150 km from the border with Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen’s native Finland. It has 10 different track layouts on about 100 hectares. However, getting here is not easy task. Racing fans in Russia travelling to Igora by car, there are no trains or buses, and the distance to the nearest stop is difficult on foot. In order to comfortably receive and accommodate at least 50,000 fans, the state needs to invest another 83 million in the future Russian Grand Prix. Before the launch in 2023, it is necessary to build a 69 km long platform, parking lots and intersections.

Russian Grand Prix 2019
Russian Grand Prix 2019

Why does the Sochi Autodrome fail in its mission?

There is a belief that Sochi has failed to win a place in the hearts of many in the paddock of Formula 1 or the wider fan base. However, this is not quite true. In recent years, the program at the Sochi Autodrom has become increasingly boring. In 2018, no additional events took place even before the restrictions of the COVID-19. Many support shows were canceled: drift and motorcycles. In the Sochi Autodrom there was nothing to show Formula 1 fans from Finland, Latvia and other countries.

There were merchant shops and cafes, but the prices are very high, as for the hotels. The organization of the autograph session developed into an uncontrolled crowd. It seemed as if the organizers themselves were not interested in their image. At the same time, many fans understood that the price of an F1 ticket about 200 dollars does not justify its price. Of course, interest in the Russian Grand Prix began to decline and reached the point where there was no going back.

Igora Drive
Igora Drive

Is Igora Drive better than the Sochi Autodrom for hosting the Russian GP hosting?

The Sochi Autodrom is convenient because it is accessible from anywhere in the world. Tourists from the US or UK find it easy when they come to Sochi. Igora Drive is as new as it looks more attractive, but the track in St. Petersburg is not ready for Formula 1 fans. Building roads, hotels and everything must be done to get it done quickly.

Moreover, Sochi itself is a place of tranquility, a spa city. St. Petersburg is considered the cultural capital of Russia. Yes, there is no sea or beaches here, but there is much to be learned about Russia itself and its cultural traditions, and perhaps a move to St Petersburg will make the Russian Grand Prix more accessible, in line with Formula One rights holder Liberty Media‘s push for more destinations in the calendar.

F1 in St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg city

Possible changes in Sochi: Return to the Formula 1 calendar as Russian GP.

There are two return scenarios: The contract between Formula 1 and the Sochi Autodrom expires in 2025. Most likely, the Russian Grand Prix will have two races and alternate. Another possibility for Sochi is to present the best show ever shown in 2021. The first Grand Prix of Igora Drive will be a crucial test, so there is the possibility that Sochi will return as the Russian Grand Prix in 2024.