Russia's first modern-day Grand Prix Formula 1 in Sochi marked a "personal and political victory" for Vladimir Putin, the French Le Monde wrote.
The publication traced the history of relations between Formula 1 and Russia. One hundred years ago, such competitions were held in Russia, but they were stopped because of WWI. The head of Formula 1, Bernie Ecclestone, wanted to hold the tournament in the USSR, but could only achieve the goal in modern Russia, despite Western sanctions.
Prior to the competition, many European and American media outlets tried to propagate the topic of canceling Formula 1 in Sochi. Yet, Bernie Ecclestone said that no one had asked him of anything. Holding the Grand Prix in Russia was absolutely legal, Le Monde wrote. In turn, German publication Tagesspiegel drew attention to the quality of the sports infrastructure in Sochi.
The article emphasizes that, in comparison to similar events in Bahrain, the event enjoys broad support among the Russian population and is not associated with the protest movement in defense of human rights. For Sochi residents, the tournament produces a positive economic effect for the local tourist industry.
It is worth noting that foreign publications put emphasis on the excellent organization of the event, similarly to the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. In addition, the event also showed that major Western businesses did not abandon their projects in Russia, despite the hype around the sanctions.
The champion of the Grand Prix that took place over the weekend in Russia's Sochi, Lewis Hamilton, said that the Russian nature, namely in the area of the city of Sochi, the city's infrastructure and the weather produced a pleasant surprise on him. He also said that "all of the drivers agreed that the Sochi track could be considered "cool" - both literally and figuratively." Moscow impressed Hamilton with its ancient and elegant architecture, and he would love to go back to Sochi for holidays," many foreign publications wrote.
Russian President Vladimir Putin personally awarded the British racing driver. While visiting the former Olympic capital that became the venue for the prestigious racing tournament, the Russian leader managed to attract a lot of media attention. In particular, Putin was offered to rule Europe and the USA.
Organization of the event received highest appraisals indeed.
"This is all very good, I'm really impressed. I can not say that there is something wrong. It goes about the situation in general, the track and the infrastructure. People are very friendly and welcoming," four-time world champion, director of team Mercedes, Niki Lauda said.
"I think it's very reasonable to use the legacy of the Olympic Games for the Grand Prix of Russia. This will save the life of everything that has been built. This is very impressive how everything is arranged here. Well done," multiple winner of the Grand Prix Formula 1 David Coulthard said.
Putin appeared in public 15 laps before the end of the race. After Lewis Hamilton was announced the winner, Putin went to congratulate him. In an emotional fit, the British racer traditionally opened a giant bottle of champagne and nearly doused the Russian president with it, but Putin managed to avoid the festive shower, the Komsomolskaya Pravda wrote.
"I think that he [Putin] is a first-class person. He could rule Europe or America. He may well handle it. But I think he's just very busy. Let him finish what he does now, and then we'll see," Bernie Ecclestone, the 88-year-old businessman said.
The Ukrainian crisis and Crimea's reunification with Russia jeopardized the Grand Prix in Russia. However, the truce in the Donbas allowed Sochi to hold one of the world's most prestigious sports events. Only one single racing driver, former world champion Ari Vatanen, stood up strongly in favor of the boycott of Formula 1 in Sochi. "If we go there, we will take what is happening for granted," the Finnish athlete said.
Noteworthy, holding Formula 1 in Russia was a dream of Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. Under Boris Yeltsin's presidency, the construction of the racing track in Moscow or St. Petersburg was discussed. The dream came true only now, when it became possible to use the Olympic infrastructure for the tournament. Vladimir Putin was personally involved in the solution of a number of organizational issues.