SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium (Reuters) - The Russian Grand Prix could become a night race as early as 2017, according to Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone and organizers.
“We’ve talked about it. Maybe in 2017 -- So you know you can book your tickets for the next 10 years,” Ecclestone told reporters at the Belgian Grand Prix.
The race in Sochi has a contract to 2020 but Alexander Saurin, vice-governor of the Krasnodar region, and Russian GP chief executive Sergey Vorobyev said an extension was already being discussed.
“Bearing in mind the significantly growing popularity of Formula One in Russia, we are considering extension of the contract,” Saurin, speaking through Vorobyev, told reporters after meeting Ecclestone.
“We are assessing the idea (of a night race) from a commercial perspective and now we are calculating the cost of that,” he added. “But we are working towards having a night race some time in the future. Not earlier than 2017.”
Last year’s race in the Black Sea resort was Russia’s debut on the calendar but it is set to move from an October slot to May 1 next year at the organizers’ request to fit in with Russia’s major holiday period.
Saurin said ticket sales for this year’s race on Oct. 11 would exceed last year and had been boosted by the success of Red Bull’s Russian driver Daniil Kvyat, who finished second in Hungary last month.
“Even last year he was attracting a huge interest….having a local hero is transforming also the event for the people for whom Formula One is a new sport,” he said.
“We expect and are finding ways to have even more people this year. The second place for Daniil Kvyat in the previous race has helped greatly. We have seen a huge rise in ticket sales right after that.”
The Russian Grand Prix was held up as a legacy of the breathtakingly expensive 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and the track snakes around the park that housed some of the venues.
Saurin said the race, and the use of the circuit for other events, had lived up to expectations for post-Olympic development.
”From the previous event (grand prix), we’ve had more than 70 big corporate and sporting events,“ he said. ”The circuit is constantly working so this is a major legacy.
“We believe that in 2016 we will have at least one or two other international series coming.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Patrick Johnston