Russian GP In Sochi Could Create F1 PR Fiasco After Downing Of Jet In Ukraine
Fears "are growing that Formula One is steering towards a new public relations fiasco as the sport gears up for the inaugural Russian Grand Prix," according to Kevin Eason of the LONDON TIMES. Leading sponsors were "already nervous about the new race in a country embroiled in the crisis in Ukraine, but the downing of the Malaysia Airlines jet on Thursday has sent a fresh shudder through the paddock." The Russian Grand Prix is a "pet project" of Russian President Vladimir Putin. His presence at a Russian Grand Prix at "such a sensitive time would embroil F1 in a political row that could be as ugly as the infamous Bahrain Grand Prix" of '12, when F1 "ploughed into Bahrain even though protesters were on the streets trying to prevent the race from taking place in the wake of the bloodshed of the pro-democracy uprising." The teams "were safe" but the publicity was "appalling" and one source at motorsports governing body FIA called it "a public relations catastrophe." Sochi in October "could be as bad." Ecclestone will "hear no question of cancelling the first Russian Grand Prix and sponsors are torn between the need to exploit one of the world’s biggest-growing markets and being seen to uphold the highest of standards in business" (LONDON TIMES, 7/19).