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Kvyat says F1 switch from Sochi to St Petersburg would be cool

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By Reuters

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) – Moving the Russian Formula One Grand Prix from Sochi to St Petersburg could be ‘cool’ and better for fans, Toro Rosso’s Russian driver Daniil Kvyat said on Thursday amid talk of a future switch.

Sochi has become a fixture on the F1 calendar since the Black Sea resort hosted the 2014 Winter Olympics but Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper reported Russian president Vladimir Putin was considering moving the race north.

It said, without giving sources, that it could happen as soon as 2021 at a new circuit under construction outside Russia’s second city.

Tass news agency quoted presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov as denying Putin was holding any talks on the matter, but Formula One sources indicated to Reuters there was some substance to the speculation.

Kvyat told reporters ahead of Sunday’s race at the Olympic Park circuit that “as long as there is a race in Russia I am up for it.”

“Maybe it’s not a bad idea to have it closer to that region, also, where it’s more accessible to the people from Moscow, from St Petersburg, maybe it will bring more spectators which is cool, and maybe also from Europe, from Finland,” he added.

“It will be cool. Why not? It’s not a bad idea. Here is very nice but who knows if there it could be even better?”

Putin is a regular visitor to Sochi and has been present at every Russian Grand Prix to date, handing over the winners’ trophy on the podium.

The Sochi race promoters have a contract to 2025, after signing an extension two years ago to the one originally negotiated with former Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone.

Formula One, whose commercial rights are owned by U.S.-based Liberty Media, is keen to host races in ‘destination cities’ with a race in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi due to make its debut next year.

Sochi is some 1,600km to the south of Moscow, where most international visitors arrive before changing to connecting flights.

St Petersburg is a short flight from Finland, a country that has produced Formula One champions Keke Rosberg, Mika Hakkinen and Kimi Raikkonen without ever hosting a championship grand prix, and well connected to Western Europe.

Finland’s Valtteri Bottas is second in the 2019 championship, 65 points behind Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton. Mercedes have won every Russian Grand Prix to date.

“Obviously a Finnish Grand Prix would be nice as well but maybe more Finns would be there (in St Petersburg), possibly,” said Bottas.

(Writing by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Christian Radnedge)