Russian Grand Prix - Preview

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After the thrilling venue of the Ferrari-owned Mugello circuit, drivers will be in action again this weekend with the Russian Grand Prix next on the condensed 2020 schedule.

Formula One teams and drivers completed an extremely intense schedule in recent months as they raced at nine grands prix in eleven weeks. This period included three triple-headers with the Spa-Monza-Mugello being the last one. Following the thrilling race at Ferrari’s own track, drivers were given time to recharge their batteries before they headed east for the season’s first standalone event, the Russian Grand Prix that will be tenth round of the heavily-updated calendar.

After the plans for a race in Russia were officially announced in 2010, the inaugural Formula One Russian Grand Prix was held in 2014. There were also intentions earlier to host a Formula One event in Moscow for the 1983 season as the Grand Prix of the Soviet Union, but these plans fell through.

Ahead of the World War I, there were two races that were held under the name of the Russian Grand Prix. Those races took place in 1913 and 1914 at a circuit in Saint Petersburg. The first race was won by Russian driver Georgy Suvorin, whilst German Willy Scholl won the 1914 event. The event was abandoned following the outbreak of the First World War and the Russian Civil War, and it was not resumed with the establishment of the Soviet Union.

The circuit is located in the resort city of Sochi, the host city of the 2014 Winter Olympics and passes around the venues of Sochi's Olympic Park. Lewis Hamilton won the inaugural Russian Grand Prix in 2014 and has repeated that feat three times since then. The two other race winners were Nico Rosberg and Valtteri Bottas who won in 2016 and 2017 respectively, both driving for Mercedes-Benz.

Two weeks after the three hardest tyres in the range were used at Mugello, Pirelli now brings the three softest tyres in the range to Sochi: C3 as the P Zero White hard, C4 as the P Zero Yellow medium and C5 as the P Zero Red soft. The Milan-based tyre company made this choice based on the smoothness of the asphalt at Sochi, which is well-known for being relatively easy on tyres.

Moreover, Pirelli also took last year’s race into consideration when making the decision over the tyre choice for the weekend. The tyre choice is actually one step softer than last year, when the C2, C3 and C4 were selected. Most drivers stopped once in 2019: just five of the 15 classified finishers stopped twice and this was largely influenced by the safety car.

The minimum starting pressure will be once again high at the Sochi Autodrom. The starting pressure of the front slick tyres must be above 24.0 psi while that limit will be 20.0 psi for the rears. The camber limit will be -3.25° for the front tyres and -2.00° for the rears.

The Sochi Autodrom features a very long start-finish straight. In fact, it incorporates Turn 1 which is a curved section, but it is easily taken flat. Turn 2 is the first braking point at the circuit, putting huge stress on tyres and brakes. Drivers need to concentrate on a perfect acceleration out of this 90-degree corner to maintain a good speed onto Turn 3. This is the most demanding corner on the entire circuit: a 750-metre constant radius left-hander, working the front-right tyre hardest.

Turn 4 represents another 90-degree corner and leads onto another full-throttle section. Turn 5 kicks off Sector 2 that is largely composed of slow to medium speed 90-degree corners. In the following Turns 6, 7, 8 and 9, it is vital to have high front-end grip to maintain good mid-corner speeds.

Turn 10 is another slow 90-degree corner where drivers are usually keen to use every inch of the artificial grass at the exit to achieve high top-end speed on the second-longest full-throttle section of the track. Turn 13 represents an interesting section: drivers need to brake hard while turning slightly to the left-hand side. Kicking off Sector 3, this corner is another slow-speed bend where drivers usually use the relatively high kerbs aggressively in order to shorten the circuit.

The following Turns 15, 16, 17 and 18 are all 90-degree corners where the mechanical grip of the car plays a vital role. It is also important for the drivers not to overstress and overheat the tyres in the first two sectors of the track to maintain their best shape for the closing part of the track.