FIA race director Charlie Whiting reckons that the F1 community will love the new Russian Grand Prix and the circuit that is being built around the site of the Sochi Winter Olympics complex.
Speaking to the circuit’s official website, Whiting praised the progress made by the organizers and was sure that the drivers will like the track layout and facilities.
“The last time I was here, it was a big building site. It’s been a year since I’ve been here and it looks beautiful now,” he said. “The track itself is going to be really fast and the drivers will love it. I’m sure of that.
“It’s clear that everything has been done really nicely. It will be a fast track, and I think it will be a really competitive track as there will be at least two or three places where drivers can overtake properly. I think that will be a very interesting track and a very spectacular race.”
As with any new circuit, there have been some safety concerns about Sochi, but Whiting is confident that the track has been made to the highest quality.
“We’re happy about the safety here,” he said. “It’s absolutely first class, I could not describe it any better than that.
“We are entirely confident that Sochi is absolutely first class when it comes to safety. It’s going to be a spectacular race and I’m really looking forward to it.”
The Russian Grand Prix is one of two new races on the calendar this year, with the revived Austrian Grand Prix taking place last month.
This will actually be the third Russian GP to be held, with two races taking place in 1913 and 1914 around the streets of St. Petersburg. It will however be the first since the formation of the F1 world championship in 1950.
We’ve written before about Daniel Ricciardo’s love of Dale Earnhardt and his love of the No. 3, which Ricciardo has selected as his permanent number for the duration of his Formula 1 career. And additionally, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has offered up the opportunity that one day Ricciardo could race a JR Motorsports car in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, and Ricciardo has said he’d be up for it.
And although Earnhardt Jr. has only used the No. 3 on a handful of occasions in his career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ricciardo knows how much the number means to the NASCAR veteran as he prepares for his final few starts in the Cup Series the tail-end of this year.
After the Mexican Grand Prix next week, Ricciardo is set to stay in North America for the off-week between the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix.
In that break, he said he’ll see Earnhardt Jr. in person at the Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (Sunday, Nov. 5, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to ensure he gets to see him before he retires from full-time competition.
Ricciardo explained his planning during Thursday’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.
“Well I’ll see him for the first time in Dallas. I’m gonna go to the NASCAR race in two weeks time at Texas Motor Speedway,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.
“Yeah, so, I gotta see him race before he hangs up the helmet.
“The Earnhardt family is a huge name in motorsport, not only in America but all over the world. Yeah I wish him well.”
Ricciardo is also optimistic he’ll get the chance to do a helmet swap with Earnhardt Jr. at the event.
“Hopefully I get to see him perform well in Texas. I’m gonna try to do a helmet swap with him. We’ll see how we go.”
Stay tuned for more on this over the coming weeks.