Once finished the Asian tour and before the final straight of the season in American soil, it’s time to land again in Europe for the Russian GP.
Not much appreciated by the fans around the world, but a fast track around a venue used for Olympic competition, Sochi Autodrom entered in the F1 calendar last year and it will remain, at least, 5 more years.
With 5’848km is the third longest track in the calendar. Drivers should race during 53 laps in this 18 corner circuit. Valtteri Bottas holds the fastest lap with a 1:40.896 min but the inaugural race was won by Lewis Hamilton in his Mercedes. The German team could achieve the 2015 constructor’s championship in Sochi, just as they did last year, by just outscoring Ferrari by 3 points. As for the driver’s standings, the British driver of Mercedes is 48 points ahead of his teammate. Sebastian Vettel follows his German fellow 11 points behind. These 3 drivers are set to battle for the championship, since the fourth in the table is no longer a contender: Kimi Räikkönen is 99 points behind his box neighbor. William’s and Red Bull’s drivers are 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th respectively.
One of Red Bull’s drivers is the national hero here in Russia; Daniil Kvyat feels like at home even though he was born 1700km far away from Sochi. Last year he claimed the 5th position during the qualifying but then he had problems during the race. Let’s see what he can do this time, having moved from Toro Rosso to Red Bull. As he commented on Sochi: “I would describe it as a classic modern-style track. But what’s really important is that there is quite a lot of room for overtaking, which usually makes for good racing. It does have some quite interesting, quite unusual sections. There are some challenging braking areas, in Turn 13 for example. Also Turn 4 is quite tough. I would characterize it as a very technical circuit. It probably doesn’t really have a standout, balls-out corner, it really does make you think a lot and it takes some time to work out the best way round it. Having said that, it’s my home race and I enjoy it a lot. The atmosphere last year was fantastic, there were so many fans giving me support. It really feels awesome to be there.
“[Last year] qualifying was great but the race was just... how can I say this… well, it was cr*p. We had problems with fuel consumption during the race and it was just a really disappointing day. I’m hoping we will be able to give the fans there something more to cheer about this year.
"Sometimes you do get some strong attention but that’s part of the game and what you have to take from it is that the attention comes from the fact that perhaps you have been doing something good, which is a positive. You have to understand that the fans are coming out to support you and that is something quite special - I’m happy to have the attention, it gives you a bit of a lift.”
The circuit has 12 right and 6 left corners. There is a 650m straight where the speed reached last year was about 330km/h. The track is between 13 and 15m wide. The lap starts with a medium length straight ending in a very fast T1 to the right passed through at 305km/h and followed by the long straight where the 1st DRS activation point is located. At the end of the straight there is a huge braking point with good overtaking opportunities. Turn 2 is a 90º to the right and it is taken at 115km/h and, right after, there is the long and fast T3. Cars will suffer from understeer since the corner has 3 different radius. The speed in the apex is 280km/h and it concludes in a 90º corner to the right taken at 135km/h. Then, another straight and a heavy braking point to get to yet another 90º corner to the right, giving start to S2. Drivers find another short straight divided by a very open fast corner T7, which is 90º to the right. Cars will go through that corner at 146km/h. They find a short straight ending in T8 to the left first, then T9 again to the left very soft and finally T10, a 90º right hander where cars will brake until 120km/h. Now the DRS use is allowed as drivers go through a long “curved straight”, flat out, where speed goes up to 300km/h again. The exit of this section is very important because the entrance in the next corner, number 13, is key to perform a good final part of the lap. It is the most technical part of the track. T13 is a right hander made at 88km/h and, right after, there is T14, the slowest of the circuit. Drivers get to the chicane, first to the left and then to the right, very tight, as they arrive to the 2 final corners, both 90º right handers before getting to the main straight.
Tires and technical requirements
Pirelli is bringing the softest compound of its range to Russia. They don’t have much information as just one race has been held in this track. They pretend the race to be a two-three pit stop race. Paul Hembery said: "We're very pleased to be coming back to Russia for the second Russian Grand Prix: a market that is crucial not only to ourselves but also every automotive manufacturer. There were a number of question marks that we faced coming to the Sochi circuit for the first time last year - as is inevitably the case with any new circuit - but we have since been able to collect extra data that means we have more information for 2015. As a result, we have gone a step softer with the tyre nomination this year to help us get back into the two to three pit stop window, which is what we desire for every race. However, both ourselves and all the teams are learning more about this circuit all the time, despite the advancement of simulation technology. The track has quite a wide variety of different corners, so it makes for a good all-round test for the tyres, with the drivers able to benefit from the extra speed of the supersoft this year."
The tire wear is medium. Last year the track didn’t have much grip since it was new asphalt. Teams hope that changed. The brake usage is also medium since it’s a fast circuit (56% of the lap is made at full throttle) with mostly fast corners. Downforce needed is high.
Alberto Antonini, press director from Ferrari, commented that the Scuderia doesn’t expect to be very strong in Sochi since it has low grip. Maybe we will need to wait a little bit more to see if Sebastian Vettel can threaten Rosberg’s position in the final standings.
by Cristina DeLarge