From Russia with speed - Midland launch 27 Feb 2005
The red carpet was actually blue the hosts corporate colour while the location was Moscows most expensive piece of real estate, Red Square. The event, harder to get into than Buckingham Palace, was the launch party for Russias first Formula One team, due to take to the grid in Melbourne in just over a years time.
The famous squares 500-year old cobblestones had not seen anything like it in quite some time, as Midland City, a huge tent complex with an all-glass front looking out on to the illuminated Saint Basils church, hosted a crowd of 800 illustrious guests. The cars dropping them off put the Oscars to shame and the guest list read like a whos who of Moscows political and business elite.
No less than two federal ministers - the Minister of Sport, Vyacheslav Fetisov and the Transport Minister, Igor Lewitin - honoured the event with their presence, whilst the Ukraines Transport Minister Yevhen Chervonenko, on a state visit to his Russian counterpart, could not resist attending once he heard that Red Square was rocking. Even Bernie Ecclestone had taken it upon himself to jet in to the banks of the Moscva to lend his support to Russias entry into motorsports fast lane.
It is a great pleasure to welcome this new team from the worlds biggest country, said Ecclestone. I have been trying for years to get the Formula One spirit to Russia and finally it has happened. In my opinion it is a very brave and inspiring move of Mr Alex Shnaider, whom I got to know in the past months as a very serious businessman, to take it on himself to be the first to realize the opportunities that Formula One holds. And to be the first is what counts. I wish him and the team he has formed all the best and I am sure that he will get the support of the whole nation.
It was a decision from the heart to have a Formula One team as it love the sport, the technology, the excitement and the politics behind. And it was a decision from the heart to make it a Russian team, Shnaider, new team owner and co-founder and chairman of the Midland Group, commented from the podium.
Midland Group is a globally operating business conglomerate so I could have chosen any country. My family lives in Canada, so this could have been an option. But I choose Russia, as this is where my roots are and to acknowledge the New Russia with its driving force of a young, very educated and success-driven population. This is my way to pay tribute to the incredible changes that this nation has seen in recent years. I am aware that it will be a rocky way to success on the grid, but like this nation has taken up the challenge, so have we. And I am convinced that we both will succeed.
Sports Minister Fetisov, to many the best ice-hockey player of the 1980s, and a man familiar with the demands of professional sport, on the prospects of having a Russian Formula One team commented: Russia is ready to be the host of a Grand Prix. I am very certain that it will happen within the next years. And now that we will have a team running under the Russian colours it will give it an extra boost that Russia will fall under the spell of Formula One.
And just to prove that the process already has started, one of the evenings highlights was a Formula One car in the colours of the Russian flag. To gasps from the guests it was unveiled in dramatic fashion, rising up from below the floor surrounded by fire and lightning. It all made for a memorable night and one that may well help add another spot to the already global landscape of the Formula One world.