Friday May 11th, 2001
Moscow will stage a Formula One Grand Prix as soon as a suitable circuit is built, the sport's supremo Bernie Ecclestone said on Friday.
"It is the FIA Formula One world championship and it's about time we had a round of this championship in Russia and, in particular in Moscow," Ecclestone, vice-president of the sport's governing body said.
Ecclestone did not say exactly when Formula One would arrive in the world's largest country but the location of a brand new race track has been settled. The projected circuit is slated for Nagatino at a bend in the Moskva river a few kilometres south of the city centre.
"We have a final agreement...to build a race track in Nagatino," Moscow tourism chief Grigory Antyufeyev, who is in charge of the project from the Russian side, said.
The Nagatino backers had to fend off a rival bid from another consortium which wanted to build a track on the city's north side, near Sheremetyevo's international airport.
"As soon as the circuit is ready we'll be here," Ecclestone told a news conference after a two-day visit. "We have eight venues seeking Formula One rights at the moment, but I believe this is where the next event should be."
Asked if one of the existing 17 Grands Prix would have to be dropped to make way for a Moscow race, Ecclestone said: "Yes, we either have to add or lose a race and we're not going to add any more races."
But he gave no indication which race on the current calendar might be replaced. Ecclestone also did not specify how much it would cost to bring the Formula One circus to Moscow.
"I have no idea what construction costs in Russia are," he said. But Antyufeyev said there would be no shortage of funds to finance the project.
"Whatever the cost, we'll find the investors," said Antyufeyev, who is vice-president of the Russian Automobile Federation. "We're not going to spend budget money, but the Moscow government will provide the land in the city's centre."
Tom Walkinshaw, who last November signed a $100 million deal with the Moscow City government to build a modern race track, said the project would be financed through the private sector and construction would begin as soon as possible.
"Now that the location has been approved by Mr. Ecclestone, we have the architects who are consultants to the FIA and they will work with us to finalise the design of the circuit," said Walkinshaw, who owns the Arrows team. "When that's finalised, we'll submit it to the FIA for approval and then construction can begin," he said. "It's months, not years."
Ecclestone described the proposed circuit at Nagatino as a "state-of-the-art facility which Moscow can be proud of".
"I am sure a great track can be constructed and I was very happy with the apparent support of the mayor," he said, referring to powerful Moscow politician Yuri Luzhkov. Ecclestone also said he was impressed with the city and believed Moscow could be a great addition to Formula One racing.
"Moscow has changed a great deal since the last time I was here eight years ago," he said. "This is a great place for Formula One."