A key F1 official has played down reports that Bernie Ecclestone looks set to be sidelined.
It emerged this week that former Ferrari and Mercedes chief Ross Brawn could soon emerge from retirement to be F1’s new sporting CEO, with some reports claiming he will in fact ‘replace’ supremo Ecclestone.
But Sergey Vorobyov, promoter of the closely Vladimir Putin-aligned Russian grand prix, doesn’t think so.
Asked if he senses Ecclestone is stepping away from the sport after the Liberty takeover, he answered: “On the contrary!
“It seems to me that he is more active than ever.
“Last week I called to congratulate him on his birthday, and he asked about all the details of the grand prix of Russia that normally we discuss with his lawyers and staff,” Vorobyov revealed to the Russian publication Sport Express.
So when it comes to the newly 86-year-old Ecclestone’s decision to leave F1, Vorobyov insisted: “I’m pretty sure that any decision will be his and not imposed from the outside.
“It was he who made the sport what it is today, and he has earned the right to make his decision,” he added.
Vorobyov also repeated his denial that Russia’s Sochi race could have a short-lived future on the calendar, and hit back at English-language reports that several other grands prix are also in doubt.
“I find it difficult to comment on the arguments of the Western media that the formula one model is faltering and a number of countries are supposedly on the verge of giving up their races,” he said.
“I think the number of races on the calendar shows that many countries are satisfied with Bernie’s conditions and want to have races, as we do.”
Asked for how long Russia’s race is guaranteed, Vorobyov answered: “(Until) 2020.
“We see no reason to cancel the Russian grand prix or for the emergence of this rumour. Interest in formula one in our country and attendance at the race are increasing, so I am sure the grand prix of Russia has a good future,” he said.
In fact, he said Sochi is seriously considering becoming F1’s next night race.
“We gave up this option for 2017,” said Vorobyov, “as it would have involved a lot of money and foreign partners.
“We went the other way, ensuring the money will stay in Russia and the price is adequate. I am sure that one of the races in Sochi will be at night in the coming years.”