What will replace the Russian GP?

The cancellation of the Russian Grand Prix and the termination of the F1 contract with ANO Rosgonki, which has shareholders including the state-owned VTB Bank, the government, the Center Omega and the Russian auto sport federation, means that not only will there be no race in Sochi in 2022, but the plan to move the race to Autodrom Igora Drive near Saint Petersburg in 2023,  with an initial deal in place until at least 2025, is also dead and gone. It is the price that Russia has to pay for going to war in Ukraine, as even if F1 was willing to accept money from Russia, the fees that the Russians would have to pay would be appreciably higher than in the past because of the Rouble-Dollar exchange rate, and there would have been a danger of F1 doing itself serious (and material) damage by the association. Money makes the world go round, and losing a little is better than risking losing a lot.

This means that there is a gap on the calendar on September 25 and F1 will obviously want to fill this with another event. It is a little bit complicated by the timing as no-one wants a calendar reshuffle at the moment because of all the rebooking that would be necessary.

The other restriction is more mundane. The race in Russia was going to be the first leg of an intercontinental triple-header, with the Sochi race followed in quick succession by Singapore (on October  2) and Japan (on October 9). It meant that there is no available time to switch the F1 circus from its trucks, which are used in European events, to the travel boxes that are used for the freight for flyaway races. It would be impossible to do this if a replacement race was in Europe. Thus there is no chance for Turkey or Germany to step in, because both used trucks, rather than travel boxes.

Given this important practical element, the F1 group’s choice of venue was limited. In a perfect world, a replacement race would be on its way from Europe to Singapore, as Sochi was, so that freight could leave Russia on Monday and be in Singapore on Tuesday to give the teams time to get ready for the following weekend.

When you look at map it is fairly clear that there is no obvious venue, except in the Middle East. It is not the moment to be trying out a new Grand Prix at a venue where no-one knows what will work and what will not work. The problem in the Middle East is that we already have races planned for Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi. Qatar, which hosted a race last year at the Losail International circuit, near Doha, was not included on the calendar this year because of the FIFA World Cup, which takes place in Qatar between November 21 and December 18. Thus it made no sense for Qatar to have a race at that time of year, as happened last year when the first Qatar Grand Prix took place on November 21.

So everyone forgot about Losail for 2022 and looked ahead to 2023 when there is supposed to be a new street circuit, along similar lines to the Jeddah City Circuit, in the downtown area of Doha.

But could a race in late September be a possibility? It makes sense for Formula 1 and it make sense for Qatar, as it will add to the build-up for the World Cup and would continue to build up the associations with Qatar and global sports. The Losail track was designed for motorbikes and there were a few drawbacks for F1 in 2021, but there was nothing that made it impossible – and that would be true again this year.

Thus it may be wise to conclude that F1 will be going back to Doha. Money is not really a question as Qatar has plenty of it and so it is really just a matter of the two parties getting together and building on the relationship that began last year and is due to continue for at last the next 10 years.

In the longer term, Qatar can move back to a date in late November, while the gap created by the disappearance of the Russian GP can be very neatly filled if F1 can get its deal signed off with Las Vegas, which is believed to be just a few weeks away from an announcement of a street race in the city in 2023.

So Russia’s loss could well be the USA’s gain.

83 thoughts on “What will replace the Russian GP?

      1. If Qatar was to fall through do you think the tract in Turkey could be practically made to work with the fly away kit?

  1. How about Vietnam. I know it had some issues behind the scenes but the work was nearly done and it would be a great new market.

  2. How about the most simple solution. Dont even bother replacing the race at all!! 22 is more than enough, who really needs another race! Give the guys a bit more time off.
    There were 16 races in my day, that was plenty, especially with the amount of testing we had to do as well. 40 weeks a year out of the UK was enough for me, and the sport has got greedy in the extreme.
    No one cares about one more race.

      1. There is not much time to sell tickets before September. So one could argue the venue, replacing Sochi, will never be sold out anyway. So in any case it will be down to the FOM to show how much they want a Grand Prix in X country, read; throw money at it to reach the financial break even point for said Grand Prix.
        In that light, Malaysia would be a very good possibility. It also fits in the change of philosophy where Grands Prix like the ones at Mugello, Imola, Nurburgring and Turkey brought back a, temporary, Grand Prix to beloved circuits. Sepang fits that bill too.
        But as said; it’s all down to how much the FOM wants it to happen. Because I wouldn’t be surprised if we eventually will see a Grand Prix at that boring Losail circuit.

      2. You can drive down to Singapore in 5-6 hours…Why not? If Spa and Zandvoort, or Texas and Mexico work…

  3. Surely Sepang, Malaysia would seem to be an option, although their website indicates there’s a private booking that weekend……….

  4. What about Portugal ?
    F1 enjoyed a successful visit to the Autodromo do Algarve, Portimao. Although they have only used the circuit once, apart from Winter testing several years ago !!!
    We have good local facilities to cope with the F1 Circus.
    Worth a thought.

    1. There have been two races there – both 2020 and 2021. But I think if its the freight type issue, then Portgual isn’t an option. Which is a shame, as its a nice circuit (if a bit sterile) and a lovely part of the world.

  5. It’s a bit of a rub to have Sepang and Singapore in the same week, I acknowledge that but I am hoping dearly that F1 will return to Malaysia soon. Any thoughts on the likelihood of that?

  6. Off topic, I know, but will you be posting an obituary for Vic Elford?

    Safe travels to Bahrain and enjoy the weekend.

  7. Joe,

    In few words can you find much of a difference between war in Ukraine, compared to US led wars in Iraq, Afganistan, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Uganda, Syria…just to name few recent ones?
    I don’t recall any sanctions imposed on US ever.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m all against any war, especially after lived through / being part of one not so far in the past.
    But what I see is double standard, regardless how much one can argue that Americans are fighting the wars to protect their own freedom (thousands kilometers away from home).
    It’s still a war and I don’t see it acceptable as a way to resolve issues in 21st century.

    1. I think you need to read a bit more, Afghanistan was a consequence of 11/9 and Iraq was an illegal war fought by Republican fundamentalists, All the rest are regional conflicts where it is not just the USA involved. In Syria the Russians kept Assad in power through war crimes it’s about regional influence.

      What are the presenters like on Russia Today?

      1. Hi Andrew,

        I think 9/11 was consequence of US foreign policy over the decades (in the process killing thousands if not hundreds of thousands of civilians worldwide, for officially various reasons, but in fact for no reason whatsoever).

        Iraq was attacked, apparently (that was officially declared), to destroy their chemical weapons as well as nuclear capacity, of which there were none present.
        So why not overturn their government, while they were there.

        All the “regional” conflicts were actual wars fought against US led army of multiple nations/ally.

        I’m not trying to find any sort of excuse for what Putin and Russia are doing in Ukraine.
        That’s horrible and he should get prosecuted in Haag for what happen in last 3 weeks alone.
        As a matter of fact I hope that imposed sanctions will end this nonsense as soon as possible.
        But at the same time all that got me wondering how come no sanctions were ever imposed on US for similar, if not the same actions.

        Didn’t get your question on Russia Today presenters.
        What make you think I know what are they like, nor if I care what they have to say?

        But enough on politics, we can hardly make any difference, can we?
        We’re here to talk F1, thanks to Joe who generously share his knowledge and this space with us.


    2. The simple answer is that Russia is attempting to redraw the map and borders by invading an independent country and adding the Ukraine to Russia by conquest. A bit different than the recent US (mis)adventures.

    3. I agree with you, and you can also cite the Monroe Doctrine and the Cuban Missile Crisis as examples of how we react when our sphere of influence is threatened.

  8. I find it hard to believe that Turkey cannot be considered – the distance from Sochi to Istanbul is roughly the same as from Lands End to the Shetland Isles. Could Turkey be the start of using the planes?

  9. With the addition of Las Vegas, are we looking at 24 races on the calendar next year then?

    This is getting ridiculous now.

  10. Besides all the comments, one much more important thing stands out: I’m glad you were able to sort out the forced quietness. Great to have you back Joe!

  11. Joe,

    Flyaway race kit to Sepang Malaysia, then road transport ( say 4 to 5 road hours) from Sepang to Singapore, then back to flyway mode up to Japan.

    Also Petronas being one of the major sponsors of the Mercedes Benz team could have influence in sponsoring the Malaysian race.

    I believe it could be done but would there be problems with two races weekend to weekend in such a nearby market.

    Keep up the great work for the season.

  12. Bring Singapore GP forward and then have 2 Japanese GPs. One in Suzuka and the other at Fuji. What do you think?

  13. Have the Russian promoters paid the fees in full? It may be too political, Liberty should donate the money to Ukrainian relief agencies.

    1. I’m sure that formula one would have already made a donation of one sort or another just kept it under the radar.

      1. You mean it actually exists?
        I thought it was just a rumour whispered by people wearing tinfoil hats whilst sitting in their pick-up trucks overlooking Area 51!!

        1. Nah, the Camo Dudes will intercept any pickup truck long before it gets within visual range of Area 51. I could tell you how I know this but the The Man would… oh-oh!

          (Dons copper Stetson)

  14. I for one would welcome the return of the outer ring of the Bahrein circuit. That produced some excellent racing a couple of years ago.

  15. Isn’t one of the logistical problems with Turkey (or any other European substitute for Sochi) that there are no team motorhomes in the flyaway kit (or Pirelli, FIA, FOM etc.), meaning that containers with the cars and engineering rig could be sent to Istanbul, but behind the garages, R. Brawn, C. Horner and L. Hamilton-Larbalestier would be sitting around on folding chairs under shaky canopies.

    Actually, that would be great — roll on the Istanbul Campground GP 2022!

  16. The weather in Doha in September is quite hot and sticky, more so than experienced in the past in the middle east races.

  17. Good to have you back after enforced internet silence Joe. I’m looking forward to GP+ again after signing up last w/e. As regards a replacement for Sochi, whilst I am not wringing my hands with anxiety, in my adult life I have never felt closer to WW III than now. They are unsettling times with a crazed Putin being backed slowly into a corner, and God forbid there should be major retaliation by the rest of the World, then the question of Sochi’s replacement would be immaterial. On that happy note, enjoy Bahrain me old son!

  18. There are alternatives. Can we think about reviving the Autódromo Juan y Oscar Gálvez? Argentina is on the mend and would probably meet any terms offered by F1.

    Or there is a place most people have never heard of. Yes, Moldova! A tiny forest kingdom nestling somewhere in the rain forests of Eastern Europe. Spa could be replicated there at very reasonable cost. Perhaps the FIA could mull it over.
    Mull it over. See what I did there?

    1. Nestling it ain’t….might be the place for a Ukraine GP or a front line…Chisinau is less than 200km from Odesa…

  19. On the subject of Russia – isn’t it rather cynical that Ferrari have removed the Kasperski logos yet will continue to work with the Russian IT company? Typical of their attitude to ethics in recent years…..

  20. Yesterday I saw a job advert from Haas F1 for a “Tax analyst”, Which is a new one on me for an F1 team.

    Joe, do you think this is a sign of teams trying to get an competitive advantage within the Cost cap rules, just normal business, or somehow related to their recent woes?

  21. I agree, Qatar is a likely choice.

    As an aside, since the last MotoGP, the circuit has been renamed to “Lusail Circuit” to align with the spelling on the adjacent Lusail development.

      1. Joe, can you verify whether there have been talks with Sepang, regarding replacing the Russian Grand Prix, or not?
        If not, then there is absolutely no hope of F1 ever going back there on short notice (within 3 to 5 years from now).

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