GOOD PALS: F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone (L) and Russian president Vladimir Putin (R) shake hands at the 2014 Russian GP, Putin will be attendance at the 2016 event. Image: AFP / Aleksey Nikolsky
Sochi, Russia - Formula 1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone says Russia will stay on the F1 schedule so long as it has the backing of president Vladimir Putin.
The F1 supremo is an avowed admirer of the controversial Russian president, who Ecclestone said is likely to present the trophies on the podium on Sunday (May 1).
The 85-year-old Briton told local news agency Tass: "We'll see, but we would be very happy if he did, I would be surprised if he didn't (come to the race)."
'We will be here as long as Putin wants to'
Ecclestone is also quoted by Ria Novosti news agency: "It's wonderful of him to find the time to come to the grand prix.
"It's difficult for him, he's under a lot of pressure as a very well-known politician, as people understand what he has done, is doing and will do."
Ecclestone said: "Russia is an important country and we will be here as long as Mr Putin wants to. Forget about contracts, if he wants Russia to go from F1, it will go, and if he wants it to stay, we will stay."
Read: Russian GP: Hamilton quickest in 3rd practice
Finally, Bernie confirmed reports that talks are still underway about Sochi becoming a floodlit night race in the future.
"I'd like to see it happen, I like the idea," he said, "but the decision is for the organisers. If Russia wants to, I am happy to support the idea."