F1 Russian Grand Prix 2014: Coverage during Sunday's race could blackout because of security measures to protect Vladimir Putin

Putin's security forces will take measures to protect the Russian President which could the UK coverage briefly cut

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The Independent Online

Formula One fans in Britain could see their coverage of the Russian Grand Prix blackout without warning due to Vladimir Putin’s presence at the inaugural race in Sochi.

Both the BBC and Sky have been informed that their broadcast is likely to be affected by Russian security measures when President Putin arrives at the track. His security team will scramble radio frequencies, according to the Daily Mail, in an effort to block any potential bombs near the track being activated by such a method.

It would mean that both radio frequencies and cameras would no longer function, meaning viewers in the United Kingdom would briefly be without footage and audio from the 16th race of the season.

Russian security forces will also use radar guarding to prevent any threat from the skies, but this could cause white speckles to appear on screens back in the UK.


“The worst scenario would be if we are live and got no warning about when they will interfere with the frequencies,” explained the BBC’s Formula One editor Mark Wilkin. “Then we could go blank for a moment. But we have a contingency plan. We will have cameras that are not reliant on radio frequencies to take over and could go to tape instead.”

Putin is due to take to the grid alongside F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone and the King of Bahrain Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, who is in Sochi to discuss future plans with Ecclestone. As a result of the threat to the build-up of Sunday’s race, Putin’s lickniji – the Presidential Security Service not too dissimilar to the old Soviet KGB – are on hand to take action should they need to.

The home crowd cheer on Russian Daniil Kvyat as the Toro Rosso driver flashes past

The inaugural race in Russia has been controversial to say the least, given the current conflict going on between them and the Ukraine, and the security threat to Putin has been raised higher than when the Winter Olympics visited Sochi earlier this year.

Any incident would seriously harm the sports attempt to move on from a dark weekend last time out in Japan. The race at Suzuka was cut short after a horrific crash suffered by Marussia driver Jules Bianchi saw the Frenchman collide heavily with a recover vehicle.

Raced in wet conditions, the Japanese Grand Prix has seen safety measures placed under the spotlight with FIA race director Charlie Whiting confirming on Friday that they are looking at introducing a speed limit zone in an accident area as well as changing the type of recovery vehicle used.

Bianchi remains in hospital in Japan after suffering a diffuse axonal injury having hit the heavy goods vehicle that was attending to the crash scene of Adrian Sutil, who had already gone off at turn seven as the race drew to a close in increasingly wet and dark conditions.

A wave of tributes and messages of support for Bianchi have been seen at Sochi this week, with every driver having the sticker “Tous avec Jules” [All with Jules] emblazoned on their helmets, while #ForzaJules is also being run on a number of cars including the Red Bull pair of Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo.

Marussia elected on Friday to run just one car in the form of Max Chilton – who qualified 21st on Saturday – as they chose not to run Bianchi’s No 17 car in tribute to their absent driver.