Formula 1

PREVIEW: 2020 Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix – Sochi Autodrom

5 Mins read
Credit: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool / Mark Thompson

With just over half the season done, Formula 1 returns to Sochi Autodrom for the Russian Grand Prix, the tenth race of the 2020 FIA Formula 1 World Championship

The street circuit has only been part of the F1 calendar since 2014 but it has brought some dramatic moments including safety cars, retirements and collisions.

Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team are the only team to ever win at Sochi, with Lewis Hamilton taking four wins and Nico Rosberg and Valtteri Bottas with one each.

What happened at the Tuscan Grand Prix 2020

The Tuscan Grand Prix proved to be highly eventful at the first ever Formula 1 race to be held at Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello. It was also Scuderia Ferrari’s 1000th race.

It was won by Lewis Hamilton, with Valtteri Bottas in second and Alexander Albon coming in third, claiming his first Formula 1 podium.

The race was eventful from the beginning. Max Verstappen complained of issues with his car before the race started. At the race start, his car plummeted down the order and eventually collided with Pierre Gasly, putting them out of the race early.

The safety car was brought out while the marshals were clearing up the cars and everyone was ready to race again come lap 7. On the restart, a horrific crash happened towards the back of the grid involving the cars of Carlos Sainz Jr, Antonio Giovinazzi, Kevin Magnussen and Nicholas Latifi. Giovinazzi crashed into the back of Magnussen causing Sainz Jr. to crash behind him and Latifi getting caught up in the commotion. 

With the high intensity of the crash, the race had to be red flagged for the second time in as many races. During the red flag, Esteban Ocon was forced to retire from the race due to his brakes overheating, leaving just thirteen drivers in the race come the restart.

On the restart, everything went smoothly, and a couple of battles started to form. Up in third was Lance Stroll, with Daniel Ricciardo and Alexander Albon hot on his tail. Stroll was unable to hold on to his position and was overtake by Ricciardo, putting him close to his first podium in a Renault.

On lap 43, Stroll become the latest and last casualty of retirement. His wheel suffered a puncture going into Arrabbiata 2 and sent his RP20 flying into a tyre wall. The race had to be red flagged again due to the severity of damage to the tyre wall.

On the next restart, the front four consisted of Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas, Daniel Ricciardo and Alexander Albon. Each pairing was in their own little battle, but a spanner was thrown in the works when Ricciardo overtook Bottas for second. Ricciardo could not hold this position eventually being overtaken but both Bottas and Albon and closing the finish line in fourth.

What happened in the Russian Grand Prix 2019

In the Russian Grand Prix last year, Lewis Hamilton took the win at a race weekend where Ferrari looked like they would dominate.

Charles Leclerc started on pole with his team-mate Sebastian Vettel in third place. On the first corner, Vettel dominated and overtook for first place. Further down the pack, an incident involving Romain Grosjean, Daniel Ricciardo and Antonio Giovinazzi brought out the safety car. This led to Grosjean retiring and Ricciardo having to pit for a puncture.

Later on in the race, Vettel was given team orders to let Leclerc by for first place but Vettel refused believing he was faster. Ferrari then pitted Leclerc and left Vettel out for a few laps. Once Vettel pitted, he was undercut by Leclerc who was now running in first.

Lap 26 led to the second retirement of the race in Ricciardo. The Australian driver had suffered damage in the first lap collision and was unable to continue further. In the same lap, Vettel had a failure of his MGU-K, leading to him retiring also. A safety car came out so Vettels car could be removed. During the safety car, Hamilton and Bottas pitted and they got the jump on Leclerc putting them first and second respectively.

George Russell had to retire during the safety car after what was deemed a wheel nut issue. William’s Racing also retired team-mate Robert Kubica as a precaution.

In the remaining laps, Leclerc tried his hardest to gain on Bottas but was never able to and had to settle for third. Mercedes duo Hamilton and Bottas took first and second respectively, Mercedes first win since the end of the summer break.

The circuit

The circuit is deemed a street circuit, even though it isn’t set up before a Grand Prix race weekend. The track is 5.848km long and the race consists of 53 laps. The track covers 18 corners with two long straights. 

The lap record was set by Lewis Hamilton in 2019 at a time on 1:35:761.

Credit: Pirelli Media

Sectors Corners and DRS zones

Sector 1 consists of Turn 1 to Turn 4. This sector has arguably one of the most challenging corners on the track, a 750-metre constant radius left hander. Sector 2 consists on Turn 5 to Turn 12, mostly consisting of right-handed corners and finishes of with a long straight. Sector 3 consists of Turn 13 to Turn 18 which has a quick succession of corners through Turn 13 to 16. The sector end with two 90-degree corners at Turn 17 and 18.

The track has two DRS zones. The first DRS detection point is just before Turn 1 with the DRS activation zone just after the turn. The second DRS detection point is before Turn 10 with the DRS activation point also after the turn.

Tyre strategy

Pirelli have chosen their softest compounds of C3, C4 and C5 for the Russian Grand Prix. Sochi places low demands on tyres so it is less likely for wear and tear. The race is predicted to be one stop. 

The compounds fare the white striped hards (C3), the yellow striped mediums (C4) and the red striped softs (C5). 

Teams allocation of tyres will be eight red softs, three yellow mediums and two white hards.

What should we look out for this year?

Lewis Hamilton is still on a dominant run, winning six out of the first nine races. If he wins in Russia, he will equal Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 races wins in Formula 1.

His team-mate Valtteri Bottas will surely want to rain on that parade. Having only won once this year, the Finn will be aching for a win this weekend.

Alexander Albon has been the more successful of the two Aston Martin Red Bull Racing’s in the recent races and will hope to continue on. Max Verstappen has had to retire from the previous two races where as Albon gained his first podium at Mugello last time out.

The midfield battle between McLaren F1 Team, BWT Racing Point F1 Team and Renault DP World F1 team is really hotting up. The strongest two drivers of those teams have been Lando Norris, who currently sits fourth in the Drivers’ Championship, and Daniel Ricciardo, who was tantalisingly close to his first Renault podium in Mugello. With just 12 points between the two, there’s everything to play for this weekend.

Scuderia Ferrari will be hoping for a between weekend after struggling yet again in recent weeks. The team sits sixth in the Constructers Championship and only has a fraction of points compared to their rivals last year, Mercedes.

What’s the schedule?

Friday 25 September

09:00 BST / 11:00 Local Time – Free Practice One
13:00 BST / 15:00 Local Time – Free Practice Two

Saturday 26 September

10:00 BST / 12:00 Local Time – Free Practice Three
13:00 BST / 15:00 Local Time – Qualifying

Sunday 27 September

12:10 BST / 14:10 Local Time – Race

How can I keep up with the action? 

Follow all the action at the Checkered Flag with our extensive coverage, quotes and analysis of every session of the Russian Grand Prix.

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