It is no secret that the Russian economy is at best stagnant and probably in recession. You need 61 roubles these days to buy a US dollar, a year ago you needed only 33. The economy is in trouble because of the low price of oil, on which Russia is heavily dependent, and because of Western sanctions resulting from President Vladimir Putin’s activities in Crimea and Ukraine. The Russian central bank has spent more than $80 billion buying roubles in an effort to push up its value but it has had little effect. Inflation is running at 11.4 percent and many projects are being cancelled because there is no money to fund them. It is, therefore, a very odd time for the government to be announcing plans for a new Formula 1-standard race track in the Moscow oblast. Russia already has a Formula 1 track in Sochi, although there have long been rumours that the event would be better-suited to either Moscow or St Petersburg, but was put in Sochi to justify the vast expense of the Olympic Park.
Just a few days ago the Moscow city authorities announced that they had halted the development of a project called Airopolis, a huge fairground, retail and office complex, with exhibition space, hotels and a Formula 1 track, near Vnukovo airport in the south-west of the city. This was announced in December by Vitaly Vantsev, the chairman of the airport, which is an investor in the project, who said that it was necessary to stop the development because the repayments on loans required were no longer viable. However, it seems that the F1 circuit may go ahead without the rest of the development, according to Vladimir Zhidkin, the head of Moscow’s department for development of new territories. The plan is for the track to be located alongside the Kiev Highway
Zhidkin said that the design of the circuit will be done by Tilke GmbH. Russia has a contract with the Formula One group until at least 2020, but it is not clear whether the race can be transferred away from Sochi under the terms of that deal.