Russia's first Formula One race will be as great a milestone for the sport as Hungary's first Grand Prix in 1986, four-time F1 champion Alain Prost said Thursday.
The Black Sea resort town of Sochi is scheduled to host a race from 2014 onwards, on a track that is to be integrated into facilities for the Winter Olympics of the same year.
Prost said he had considered the parallel between Russia and Hungary after he came to Russia for the first time this week.
"Yesterday at dinner, I was talking about Budapest and the first Formula One race [there in 1986], and obviously you have more or less the same feeling. In two years you have the first Grand Prix and I think it's a big event. For me, it's not just another Formula One race," the 56-year-old Frenchman said.
Prost said that Russia's status as a major world car market made it attractive to sponsors in a way that did not happen in Hungary in the 1980s.
"It was special more than 20 years ago in Budapest, but here it's different," he said. "You have enough of the automotive industry for big sponsors and the whole package involved in Formula One."
Prost suggested, however, that for a track designer Sochi Grand Prix organizers might have looked beyond German architect Hermann Tilke, who has created every new course since 1997.
"If we had more than one designer, that would be better, because you can always find new ideas and do something different," he said.
The Tilke-designed Istanbul Park circuit in Turkey has won plaudits from drivers for its originality, but some of his other circuits, such as Valencia, have been criticized as dull.
"Turkey is a good example that he can still do something quite interesting and good for the spectators, and people watching on TV. Some tracks I don't like for driving or watching on TV."
Prost added that pressure from the governing body to make tracks safer had made new designs more similar to one another than older tracks.
"I agree that you could criticize that the tracks look very similar but you should not forget that we have more demands from the FIA for safety and for the drivers. The world has changed," he said.
Prost won the world championship with McLaren in 1985, 1986 and 1989, and with Williams in 1993, his last season in the sport. Last month, he won the French Andros Trophy ice racing championship for the third time.