sport

Teams to seek guidance over Russia

Formula One teams will seek advice from their governments on whether to travel to Russia for the inaugural grand prix later this year.

The race is scheduled to take place on October 12, just five months away, in the Black Sea resort of Sochi that staged the recent winter Olympics.

However, the ongoing political struggle between Moscow and Ukraine over the Crimea region has resulted in sanctions being imposed on Russia by the West.

That has already had an impact on Sauber and Toro Rosso, both of whom have vested interests with Russian partners and sponsors.

World Superbike organisers have already cancelled the Russian round of this year's championship, which was due to be run at the Moscow Raceway on September 12.

Unless the situation eases over the coming weeks and months, pressure is almost certain to be applied on F1 to follow suit.

The race, though, has been a long time in the making, with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone having worked closely with Russian premier Vladimir Putin, and it is unlikely he will make a decision lightly.

Overall responsibility rests with motor sport's world governing body, the FIA, although national governments will certainly have an input.

F1 will be anxious, though, to avoid the backlash that followed their visit to Bahrain in 2012 despite protests in the Gulf kingdom at the time.

Force India deputy team principal Bob Fernley said: "Criticisms were directed towards the teams and the organisation in going to Bahrain.

"But we were clearly in line, and in accordance with, British government guidelines.

"But unless the British government advise otherwise, and from that the FIA and FOM (Formula One Management), then we are obliged to go. We are contracted to go."

Marussia team principal John Booth added: "Whether we go to Sochi, as with Bahrain over the last couple of years, we'll follow the (British government) guidelines on whether it is safe to travel or not."

Williams deputy team principal Claire Williams remarked: "We'll listen to the advice given, but ultimately we'll wait for a decision from the FIA."

Mercedes, British based in Brackley but German owned, have confirmed they too will take the advice of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, along with its German equivalent, Auswartiges Amt.

Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost, with a Russian driver on the team's books this year in Daniil Kvyat, has confirmed problems have arisen in trying to attract new sponsors.

"I hope they sort out all the troubles they are currently having and we can go because the Russian market is quite important for us," said Tost.

"The political situation has affected our negotiations with companies in Russia because no-one knows which way things will go.

"I just hope it will end in a positive way, that we go to Sochi as it is very important."

As for Sauber, with another Russian in Sergey Sirotkin a reserve, team principal Monisha Kaltenborn said: "We've definitely seen an effect because a lot of talks, which were advanced, have virtually come to a standstill.

"People are waiting and seeing what is going to happen. Nobody really knows what the entire impact will be because the sanctions which have now been imposed are biting some firms.

"We simply have to wait. There is nothing we can do about it, so we really hope the situation is clarified soon and things can be sorted out."