Just a week after the electrifying Singapore Grand Prix, Formula One heads to Sochi, home of the Russian Grand Prix. Although Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes have a firm grip on the world championship titles, Ferrari are very much keen on demonstrating their recent pace on another circuit.
Formula One first visited Russia in 2014, but the Grand Prix history dates further back. The race was first held briefly in the 1910s in Saint Petersburg of the Russian Empire. The Formula One World Championship was called into being in 1950, but the first plans to host a Formula One event in Moscow were only made for the 1983 season as the Grand Prix of the Soviet Union, but these plans fell through. In the end, Hungary became the first country to organize a race behind the Iron Curtain, joining the calendar in 1986.
Bernie Ecclestone expressed a desire to see Formula One travel to Russia at a circuit in or near Moscow or at the resort city of Sochi. After several decades of attempting to re-establish the race, the new Russian Grand Prix was officially announced on 14 October 2010 for a debut in 2014, running through 2020. The inaugural event was held on 12 October 2014, and was won by British driver Lewis Hamilton
What a record it is what Mercedes has achieved in Russia so far! Since the inaugural Formula One Russian Grand Prix, Mercedes has achieved an amazing run of success with securing victory in every single edition of the event. It means that the Silver Arrows have five victories in Sochi and they happily face the challenge this weekend to extend that sweeping success even further.
Among the drivers, it is Lewis Hamilton who has stood the most on the top of the rostrum. The Briton has secured three victories so far. His former teammate Nico Rosberg and his current teammate Valtteri Bottas have both won once in Russia.
After the demanding street track of Singapore, Formula One returns to a track which poses a very different set of challenges to the race cars. The Sochi Autodrom is defined by two long straights, the high-speed multi-apex horseshoe-shaped Turn 3 and by a large number of 90°, medium-speed corners. The variance means that set-up is compromise. The fast straights tempt teams to pursue reduced levels of downforce, but the slow and medium-speed corners mean balance, grip and good traction on exit are also prized. In short, it’s not an easy circuit to get right.
After the incredibly long main straight, drivers arrive to a heavy braking zone. Focus is on the acceleration phase as another high-speed section follows. Turn 3 is reminiscent of the fabled Turn 8 of the Istanbul race track with its high-speed, never ending nature. Thanks to the high downforce levels generated by the current F1 machines, almost the entirety of the bend is taken at full throttle. To take Turn 4, drivers have to decrease to speed massively, but they have to pick up the throttle as early as they can as another straight follows.
Turn 5 represents the first bend of the second sector. Drivers’ feet are once again fully connected to the throttle as they storm through the curvature of Turn 6. The sequence of the next medium-speed corners requires a good level of downforce from cars. Sector Two end in a high-speed section where drivers apply full throttle.
Turn 13 represents the first corner of the last sector which is very different to the previous two sections. This part of the Sochi Autodrom consists of five 90-degree corners and shorter straights. Mechanical grip and tyre performance are the most important features in this section. After the first two sectors, tyre usually start to overheat slightly when drivers arrive to this section. However, the high kerbs and the importance of traction reward cars which can keep the tyres in good shape for the last corners of the track.