“For Formula 1, the track is awesome.” What riders think about the future home of the Russian Grand Prix
The history of the new Igora Drive track near St. Petersburg in its present form began with the stage of the Russian series of circuit races in July 2020 and ended with it a year later. At the end of the weekend, the SMP RSKG circuit was closed for reconstruction in order to open it already in the status of the host circuit of the Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix. What awaits pilots and fans there?
Neither the DTM, nor the World RX rallycross, nor MotoGP have reached St. Petersburg yet, which means that the Touring riders on TCR vehicles, the top category of the Russian ring, can give an answer to this question. These are the fastest cars to date that took part in the official starts at Igor. Of the four “Touring” races held within the SMP RSKG race, three victories remained with the pilots of Lada Sport Rosneft – who, if not Mikhail Mityaev and Kirill Ladygin (won both the first and the last so far “Touring” races in the history of the autodrome), piloting 350-horsepower Lada Vesta Sport TCR, can you share your thoughts on the track from the riders’ point of view?
“The configuration will be even more interesting”
“The impressions from the track are very good. There are opportunities for wrestling and overtaking on the track, including due to the mistakes of the opponents, and we need to see how everything will be in the rain – it’s not serious, when in St. Petersburg for two years there was not a single rainy race! As a child, I watched the races on the “Nevsky Ring”, and it often rained, but here it has never been. But everything is still ahead – I am sure that this track has a great future.
So far, there are no changes at the autodrome compared to 2020. The track is awesome for Formula 1 even now, but it will be necessary to see what the new third sector will be like, what will be built there. I think the configuration will be even more interesting.
In its current form, the track, let’s say, turned out to be a little unfinished – the lower slow hairpin breaks the rhythm of a dynamic and high-speed circle. But I am sure that when they finish it, then everything will be better. Judging by what I’ve seen on the Internet, the track will become even faster. On the other hand, it means that it will be “motorized”, where the engine power will play an important role, ”says Mikhail Mityaev.
With the rain, the “koltseviks” on “Igor” really did not grow together for two years, but the participants of the RDS GP “floated” along the St. Petersburg track, their debut stage at the circuit last year was accompanied by the showers traditional for the Northern capital. But if drifters need a small section of the track, then the existing configuration will not be enough for Formula 1 either – work on the reconstruction of Igora began even before the weekend of the NSR RSKG and did not stop even during the races, so from some angles it seemed that the cars are fighting not on the most modern Russian highway, but on a gigantic construction site.
“We should see overtaking in Formula 1 too”
“It’s nice that Formula 1 will appear here in 2023: this is the best confirmation of Igora’s level. If we talk about the track from the driver’s point of view, then I like it for its high-speed turns, so it should be interesting here.
The circuit is quite overtaking, so overtaking is possible here not only in touring car races. We should see overtaking in Formula 1: the track is wide, the turns are fast, especially when the track is rebuilt and the slow hairpin is removed for the World Championship. There is no exact information on how the configuration will change, but, according to our assumptions, the track will become even more relief due to the elevation difference – this will add interest. The overtaking will be a long-distance straight line, which will be increased by another 400 meters, so that there is the very place for the DRS zone and overtaking.
From the perspective of a Formula 1 spectator, I like Igora more than Sochi Autodrom, because in St. Petersburg there is a stationary track with wide safety zones, and in Sochi there are close walls, and the first mistake for you will be the last. From a combat standpoint, gravel curbs and large drop zones are more interesting because they leave a chance. In addition, the asphalt is of high quality. Even in the rain, and we had training on a wet track, the “grip” is very good, “says Kirill Ladygin.
The track is ready, the transport is not
And if everything is ready for the riders in general, then the audience will have to be patient and wait for the development of the transport infrastructure. The autodrom is far enough from St. Petersburg, and you can forget about the Sochi history, when you can get from the airport to the highway in 15 minutes, and it is easy to walk from the hotel to Sochi Autodrom in 5-10 minutes. For the time being, you can get to “Igor” either by buses, which run on schedule, or by private car.
Trains to the track area also leave from Finland Station, but upon arrival in the region, you will either have to spend money on a taxi to Igora, or prepare for a difficult hike along forest paths and suddenly discover for yourself that this is only the Northern capital, which is as flat as table, and in the region there are already quite decent elevation differences, which you will have to storm on your own two feet. And it’s good if it’s dry … In a word, there is something to work on.
It is even more than a year before the first ever Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix near St. Petersburg, and work on preparing Igora for this event has already begun. So far, only directly on the track, but I want to believe that the promises of the organizers and the authorities to improve the transport accessibility of the circuit will also be implemented. The racing complex is already quite good, so if it turns out to be easier to get to it than it is now, then the rains will only be a joy – the races will only become more interesting.