Jerez emerges as possible replacement for Russian Grand Prix

The Russian Grand Prix was cancelled after Russia's invasion of neighbouring Ukraine.

In a perhaps unexpected turn of events, the Jerez circuit in Spain has been touted as a possible venue to replace the cancelled Russian Grand Prix in September.

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that started on 24 February, FIA President Mohammed ben Sulayem met with other members of the governing body to discuss their response to the war in Eastern Europe, ultimately deciding to strip Russia of a race this season.

Formula 1 would then also cancel its contract with promoters of the Russian Grand Prix, meaning that there will be no race in the country for the foreseeable future.

BBC F1 journalist Andrew Benson has suggested that the absence of Russia from the racing calendar will likely persist until the end of Vladimir Putin’s reign as Russian president.

The FIA also ruled that drivers and competitors from Russia and Belarus – which aided Putin’s invasion – are allowed to race so long as they use a neutral flag.

A prohibition was placed on branding from either of the two countries being displayed in the sport, before heavy financial sanctions placed on Russia by many world leaders made it impossible for Russia-based firm Uralkali to continue to fund the Haas team, leaving Nikita Mazepin out of a seat in 2022.

There has been inevitable speculation as to which circuit might be chosen to replace Sochi this year, with Sepang in Malaysia being many fans’ first option – indeed, the Sepang Circuit teased a return to the calendar on social media on Saturday.

However, Jerez has now been highlighted as a possible venue to head to in lieu of the Russian Grand Prix.

The Andalucian circuit has played host to seven races between 1986 and 1997, the last of which leading to a controversial championship-decider between Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve, with the Canadian coming out on top before the 53-year-old was disqualified for intentionally trying to take out his opponent.

Article continues below

It has also played host to pre-season testing in the years since, and vice president of the Andalucia region, Juan Marin, would be delighted to have F1 return to the track.

“This is great news,” he said.

“The whole world knows we want a grand prix and that’s why we went to London to negotiate a year and a half ago. The organisers told us that if there was any cancellation, our region could be the first choice for a replacement.”

Could Jerez replace Sochi in 2022?

Logistically, of course. F1 is largely based in Europe, and the lack of another long haul fly-away posed by Russia is something the teams would be glad of in mitigation of a staggering 23-race calendar this year.

Spain already has a race in Spain, and adding another would increase the pinnacle of motorsport’s popularity within the country due to the presence of Carlos Sainz and double world champion Fernando Alonso on the grid.

However, a lack of heavy braking zones, coupled with a sweeping middle sector makes overtaking a challenge, and this difficulty is something F1 would probably like to avoid if possible.

However, depending on the efficiency of the new technical regulations, which are aimed at promoting close following and entertaining racing, it could well be a suitable replacement for the cancelled Sochi race.