One announcement that didn’t get much traction over the Christmas period, but which is significant nevertheless, was Richard Cregan’s move from Abu Dhabi to Russia, to oversee delivery of the new Russian GP at Sochi.
The inaugural Russian race is scheduled for October, on a repurposed track set on the site of the Winter Olympics which take place in a few weeks from now.
The event has had a long gestation, backed by Russian president Vladimir Putin, and has not been without its difficulties. It’s a young team at Sochi, full of enthusiasm, but there have been mountains to climb to get the event to this point. But it’s vitally important for both the country and the sport that the event is delivered and is a success.
There is always a significant cultural adjustment to be made on both sides when F1 engages with a new circuit, promoter and federation in a new country. The Chinese, for example, didn’t understand that they needed to pay Ecclestone to host a race, rather than the other way around. Some circuits, like Bahrain, hire in F1 expertise at the outset and are able to accommodate the requirements and idiosyncrasies of the teams, without problems. Cregan’s move to Russia – albeit quite late in the day – is designed to achieve that.
Cregan is a former senior manager of the Toyota F1 team, who left before the team was closed down (seeing the writing on the wall) and turned himself into a circuits guru. He delivered Abu Dhabi, arguably the most advanced F1 facility in the world, on time and has presided over it for the last five years.
Now he’s taking his skills to Russia, no doubt with the encouragement of Bernie Ecclestone and F1 Management who want to ensure that Sochi comes through. He will stay for the initial few years at the circuit and then, no doubt, move on to a similar project with a new venue.
In this sense, Cregan has replaced Philipe Gurdjian, who was always the man Ecclestone parachuted into a new venue if he felt it needed some help on delivery and completion.
If you missed our Christmas Special Podcast, you can listen here – it features JA on F1 readers giving their thoughts on the 2013 season and on the future direction of the sport. The eight JA on F1 competition winners who got the chance to drive Mercedes’ F1 simulator, also report on the experience. One reader got to just over 2 seconds off Mercedes’ reserve driver Sam Bird’s time around Barcelona!