We haven’t recovered from Suzuka yet and we are already in Sochi for the new GP. Some say that this event shouldn’t be held, after what happened in Japan but the truth is that the F1 life goes on. For sure Bianchi’s accident will affect in many ways to Russia’s GP: Marussia F1 Team may have just one car out there in the track although Jules' name and car will be present in his garage. Further, all the drivers will be wearing stickers saying “ForzaJules” and, of course, there are some talks about how the safety in F1 could be improved.
This will be the first time in history that the F1 goes to Russia and it will be under great circumstances. The track is built around a venue used for Olympic competition, the Sochi Olympic Park, which held the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. 2014 is the first year of a seven-year contract with FOM.
The circuit is designed by German architect Hermann Tilke and it heads west towards the Black Sea. Its layout is a 180º bend. 1.7 kilometres of the circuit length will take place on public roads. Sochi is one of the longest tracks of the calendar: third after Spa and Silverstone. The centerline length of the circuit is 5.848 km and drivers will race for 53 laps to complete 309.7 km in total. The track is composed of 18 corners and it has been already compared to Valencia Street Circuit and the Korean International circuit, both currently off the calendar.
Sochi’s circuit starts with a very long straight which contains a very soft corner to the right. Just before that corner number 1, we find the DRS detection point. The DRS will be used from the exit of the corner until the braking point of corner number 2, during the 650m straight where they can reach a maximum speed of 320km/h more or less. That will be one of the best overtaking opportunities. Second corner is very tight, 90 degrees to the right again. After it, drivers will go through a fast parabolic never-ending corner to the left, with 3 different radius, ending into another 90 degrees corner to the right. Then, they have a short straight ahead which ends into yet another 90 degrees corner to the right, just after starting the second sector. Acceleration time starts after corner number 5, finding here another short straight containing a fast corner and leading to the fourth 90 degrees turn of the track. Few meters of full power, medium speed corner to the left and fast one also to the left. In this point, drivers can press the accelerator pedal again as they will find the second DRS detection point in a short straight just before braking hard to take the corner number 10 which has 90 degrees to the right. Then, full power again since the drivers will have a very soft and fast corner to the right, which can be considered as a straight, in which will be the second DRS activation point. To start the third sector, a slight turn to the left and a heavy braking point just before another 90 degrees corner to the right, a very good overtaking point. Without any time to breath after corner number 13, drivers will already be in the corner number 14, a quite tight one to the left, and will go to a fast section with an opened turn that precedes a short straight and the corner number 15 of 90 degrees to the left; this part of the track is almost a chicane since we find the tight corner number 16 to the right just a couple of meters after. Last long straight before the ending of the lap that ends in yet another 90 degrees corner to the right before a short straight and the last corner, again a 90 degrees one to the right.
There have been two Russian F1 drivers: Vitaly Petrov, who drove from 2010 until 2012, and Toro Rosso’s current member Daniil Kvyat, who will replace Sebastian Vettel in Red Bull next year. Here is what the local hero said about the circuit: "Time for my home race and the first ever Formula 1 Grand Prix in my home country. I am sure there will be a lot of attention on me, but I am ready for it and will enjoy it in a way, so really I will just do my usual job: the best I can. In fact, following the amazing news that I will be driving for Infiniti Red Bull Racing next year, doing the best I can for Toro Rosso will be my priority this weekend and for the last three races after that.I don't get to go back to Russia very often, so I'm very excited to finally race in my home country and in front of the Russian fans. I'm sure it's going to be a very big and exciting event. As for the Sochi track itself, from what I've seen on the simulator, I'd say it's a medium and slow speed corner venue, rather stop-and-go and with twisty sections. I would say it's a bit of a half street circuit, which makes it quite challenging. There are some power sections but not many, so it should suit our car quite well. A message for the fans? Come and support me and Toro Rosso."
Technical requirements and tyre choice
The needed downforce is medium-high, as well as the brakes requirement. Brakes will be used during the 10% of the lap. The turbo and ERS requirement will be high and that may be the reason why Red Bull chose to change Sebastian Vettel’s engine in Sochi.
Pirelli has chosen the soft and medium tyres for this weekend since that combination can cover a wide range of conditions. The grip progression on track is high. Drivers will have to take care of the tyres, specially on turn number 3 because the possibility of graining appearance will be high there. It is expected a 2 or 3 stops race.
As Jean Alesi, Pirelli’s ambassador, said: “A brand new circuit, where no-one has ever raced, is always a very special kind of challenge, both for the drivers and the teams. It's true that, today, there are simulators able to replicate the conditions that are found on the track – by working with distances and turn ranges – and so it is easier to prepare than it was in the past. But this is still only virtual preparation; in reality, other elements often crop up, causing different effects. So real reconnaissance of the track is necessary and the drivers do this on bicycles or on foot. They also touch the asphalt or a joint between surfaces with their hands, to understand what effect an uneven patch might have. One other aspect is for sure: the first day you ride on brand new asphalt, it will be extremely dirty, covered in dust and with dirty oil patches, potentially damaging in terms of tyre evaluation. And this can cause you to lose a lot of time.”
Mercedes has it easy to win the Constructor’s world championship in Sochi. They just need to score 25 points or more and it will be done. Will we have the first celebration in Russia? We will see it in just 4 days.
Race local times
FP1 Friday 10 10.00h
FP2 Friday 10 14.00h
FP3 Saturday 11 12.00h
Qualifying Saturday 11 15.00h
Race Sunday 12 15.00h