Sochi circuit unveiled ahead of inaugural F1 race (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

The world’s newest Formula 1 racetrack has been unveiled at the former Winter Olympics site in Sochi, which will host Russia’s first ever Grand Prix on October 12.

Krasnodar region governor, Aleksandr Tkachev, cut the ribbon accompanied by former F1 driver Vitaly Petrov.

“This is a very hard track, with a lot of challenging turns, and opportunities for overtaking, though I did set a personal best lap time,”
said Petrov after a test drive.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev looks at a race car during his visit to the Sochi Autodrom racing circuit, scheduled to host Russia's first Formula One race in October. (RIA Novosti / Alexey Kudenko)

The track, snaking between landmark Olympics sites, cost about $200 million dollars, and is surrounded by stands that can accommodate up to 50,000 people.

Moscow has been courting the world’s biggest racing series since the mid-1980s, when it was still on the other side of the Iron Curtain. Several concrete plans have fallen through at the last minute over the past two decades, though another top-tier track - just like Sochi, designed by Hermann Tilke - Formula 1’s favored designer, has been built outside Moscow.

Krasnodar governor Aleksandr Tkachev (RIA Novosti / Alexey Kudenko)

While inviting an expensive Formula 1 race – which has been licensed from the FIA for up to 2020 at least – appears like trying to build the sport from the top up, racing has gained increasing popularity among motor-obsessed Russians. Petrov’s career at the top might have been short, but another Russian, Daniil Kvyat, who is in his first season driving for Toro Rosso in Formula 1, is considered one of the best prospects in the world.

The grand opening of the Formula One circuit in Sochi. (RIA Novosti/Alexey Kudenko)

Petrov, who will be involved in managing the track, says Sochi will help the grassroots.

“This won’t be just a showpiece. The track will be open all year round, and anyone with a car is welcome to test themselves on the track. We are also establishing a school for young drivers – so we are open for everyone.”