The Russian Grand Prix had its inaugural race just two years ago in October 2014, and is situated within the grounds of the Olympic Park in Sochi. It was installed as a legacy to the Winter Olympics that were held in the Black Sea resort earlier that year.
The Sochi Autodrom is one of the fastest city circuits on the F1 calendar, with plenty of overtaking opportunities due to the width of the track. It is also one of the fastest tracks visited across the year, which can make for some interesting racing, especially with the low degradation of the smooth asphalt surface, which allows drivers to push harder than is usually possible at other circuits. That said however, the 2014 Russian Grand Prix was deemed one of the dullest of the year.
It may be a relatively new track in comparison to others, but what stories does the Sochi Autodrom have to tell? Thecheckeredflag.co.uk bring you five interesting facts about the Russian Grand Prix, that you may not have known:
There has been a safety car period in every Russian Grand Prix held so far, with two being deployed in the 2015 race. Last year the safety car saw early action, after Nico Hulkenberg span his Sahara Force India at Turn 2, taking out the Sauber of Marcus Ericsson in the process. Just a few laps later, Romain Grosjean lost the Lotus at Turn 3, which saw the Frenchman career into the wall at high speed, ending his race but signalling the deployment of the second safety car of the grand prix in just twelve laps. The timing caused havoc for the drivers, with many gambling on pitting for new tyres in a bid to make it to the end of the race. That made for the thrilling action that ensued, in stark contrast to the monotony of the 2014 event. What sort of race will we see in 2016? Hopefully one similar to last year!
The Mercedes AMG PETRONAS squad have a 100% record in Sochi, securing pole position ahead of both races, as well as claiming victory in 2014 and 2015. The German squad have also led every single lap run during a Russian Grand Prix. Clear dominance from the current world champions, but will that streak continue in 2016?
The 2015 Russian Grand Prix saw countrymen Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas battling for third position in the final lap of the race. The tussle got heated and Raikkonen made a rash dive down the inside at Turn 4. The Scuderia Ferrari lunged from a long way back, leaving Bottas unaware of what was about to befall him. Before you could blink, Raikkonen’s left front tyre had caught the rear of the Williams Martini Racing machine, knocking it offline and into the barrier, signalling the end of a hard fought race for Bottas. The Ferrari man received a thirty second time penalty for that move, which was no recompense for Bottas, who was left pointless and extremely disappointed.
Flat out at Turn 3
The sweeping left-hander at Turn 3 has become a firm favourite with F1 drivers, due to the fact that it is flat out, and the utmost precision is required to take the corner cleanly. Thrilling to drive, and experience it is the longest and fastest turn in Formula One. After the inaugural race Nico Rosberg advised “It’s really cool to drive, very enjoyable. Turn 3 is a very special one.”
Red Bull Racing’s Daniil Kvyat is the only Russian driver currently racing in F1, he is almost the most successful, having taken two podiums in his relatively short career. The 22-year old will be joined by fellow countryman Sergey Sirotkin during the first practice session of this weekend’s Grand Prix in Sochi, when the GP2 driver will line up for the Renault Sport F1 team in his new role as test driver for the squad. Vitaly Petrov was the only other Russian to compete in F1, when he drove for the Renault F1 team in 2010 – 2011, and for the Caterham squad in 2012. Can Kvyat make use of home advantage and bag his and Russia’s first win?
It is rumoured that from next year the Russian Grand Prix will become a night race, which will add another dimension to this continually improving track, and perhaps that will leave time during the day for the F1 paddock to take in a spot of skiing, a benefit of Sochi, where ski season runs until the end of May!
The differing tyre choices selected by the teams ahead of this weekend’s race, at a track where tyre wear is at a low, should also spice up the action, and it will be interesting to see what direction each of the teams go with in terms of strategy.
Going into the 2016 Russian Grand Prix, Nico Rosberg is riding high after three wins in succession, but after a wave of bad luck be-falling him, can Lewis Hamilton turn the tables in Sochi? Ferrari look to have closed the gap with Red Bull at their heels, but can the Milton Keynes based squad put themselves firmly in the mix at the Sochi Autodrom this weekend?