Russian Grand Prix – Preview

By Balazs Szabo on

Following an action-packed triple-header to kick off the second half of the season, the F1 community heads to the shores of the Black Sea and Sochi Autodrom for round 15 of the 2021 FIA Formula One World Championship.

This weekend’s Sochi race will be the eighth Russian Grand Prix. 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.

In terms of tyres, Pirelli will bring the three softest compounds in the range which happens for the first time since Austria. The C3 compound will serve as the P Zero White hard, C4 as the P Zero Yellow medium, and C5 as the P Zero Red soft. This is the same nomination that was made in Russia last season, when the event was held at a similar time of year.

Sochi is a low severity track and the track surface has been steadily maturing since the asphalt was originally laid nearly a decade ago. As a result, the softest rubber in the P Zero range is the perfect choice for the Russian track.

The 5.848km street circuit winds its way around the Olympic Park, site of the 2014 Winter Olympics, passing venues such as the Bolshoy Ice Dome and the Adler Arena Skating Centre. The circuit is the fifth longest on the calendar and combines a number of tight, twisty sections with long straights and a fast, sweeping turn four, perhaps the most notable corner on the track.

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.