Prixview – Russian Grand Prix

Features Testing & Race Reports

Round ten of the season takes Formula One to Sochi and the former Olympic Park for the Russian Grand Prix. Sochi held its first Grand Prix in 2014, the same year as the Olympic and Paralympic Games with the circuit winds its way around venues used for the games.

Sochi is a street style circuit, the only one on this street circuit on the rejigged calendar due to Coronavirus. However, its not a traditional street circuit with normal track width and open corners as the driver sweep around the venues used in 2014. One of the eye conic corners on this circuit is long curve around the medal plaza at Turn Four.

The fourth-longest circuit on the calendar presents all the challenges of a street circuit with a little bit of run off which allows a little bit more room for overtaking. Especially the curving turn four, but the circuit requires high downforce and straight-line speed. It comes following the long straight between Turn Nineteen and Two, in the race Turn One is effectively flat out.

The style of Sochi is one which makes overtaking difficult, as the speed and downforce as well as the need to follow. Sochi has been a circuit where we have seen little overtaking, this makes qualifying important and that could cause headaches for some teams.

However, we have never seen regular interruptions to qualifying or races compared to other street-style circuits which doesn’t help when it comes to mixing up the race. Effectively this is a low speed and high downforce circuit, with tight ninety-degree corners with straights.

This is normally a circuit where you see Valtteri Bottas on par with Lewis Hamilton, the Finn scored his first podium with Williams in 2014 finishing behind both Mercedes.

It still, however, requires the drivers to be focused on delivering straight-line speed, and late-breaking into corners. Late-breaking can provide some of the action when it comes to overtaking, and that carries a slight risk with a circuit which is lined with barriers.

In Saturday practice in 2015, Carlos Sainz had 46G crash into the wall at Turn Thirteen. The Spaniard lost control and his Toro Rosso was buried in the barriers causing the session to be red-flagged. This proved that street circuits still carry risks and they can still

In the eight times, the Russian Grand Prix has been held only one constructor has one the race, Mercedes. The first two races were held before WWI, were Russian Georgy Suvorin and Willy Scholl, these races were held in St Petersburg. It would take a hundred years for the race to return to the calendar, for various reasons.

Sochi joined the calendar finally in October 2014, following thirty years of work and bureaucy. But it came with controversy off the track with conflicts in Ukraine, Russian interference in elections and, this year Belarus and the poisoning of Alexei Navalny. The race however continues despite these controversies.

Sochi is popular with Russian fans, it’s setting against the Black Sea and Caucasian Riviera gives it one of the best settings for a Grand Prix in the world. Valtteri Bottas has always gone very well as it’s a circuit where he scored his first win in 2017 and has always finished in the points, he was on course to win in 2018.

Facts and figures

Round 10
Race VTB Russian Grand Prix 2020
Venue Sochi Autodromo, Sochi, Krasnodar Krai, Russia
Circuit Length 5.848km (3.634mi)
Laps 53
Race Distance 309.732km (192.459 Mi)
Lap Record 01:35.761 (United Kingdom Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 2019, F1)
Most wins drivers Lewis Hamilton (4)
Most wins manufacture Mercedes (8)

Fast facts

  • Sochi is one of eight cities to have hosted the Olympics, one of seven Paralympics and a Grand Prix; the others are Melbourne, Montreal, Barcelona and Mexico City (all current F1 cities), plus Berlin (AVUS), Los Angeles (Long Beach), and Rio de Janeiro (Jacarepaguá).
  • Tea growing is common in the region, and the Caucasus Mountains are one of the northernmost areas of the world where tea is grown. It’s level on latitude as Monaco and Paul Ricard.
  • Pole position is located on the left side of the track, on the racing line. There is more grip available on this section of track, but a fast-starting car on the inside can use the flat-out right-hander at Turn One to muscle ahead before the braking point for Turn Two.
  • Drivers starting from second and fourth in the Russian Grand Prix have never failed to score points in the race.
  • Russia shares a border with fourteen countries including Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, China, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and North Korea. No other country in the world has as many borders.

Event timetable

Session

Local

BST

Friday

P1 11:00-12:30 09:00-10:30
P2 15:00-16:30 13:00-14:30

Saturday

P3 12:00-11:00 10:00-11:00
Qualifying 15:00-16:00 13:00-14:00

Sunday

Race 15:10 13:10

What happened in 2019?

Charles Leclerc continued his strong run of pole positions out qualifying Lewis Hamilton by four-tenths, he was the first Ferrari driver to claim four poles back to back since Michael Schumacher in 2001. Vettel for the second week in a row made a mistake on his final lap, allowing Hamilton to spilt the Ferrari’s.

Alex Albon crashed out of the session in Q1, he lost the rear-going through Turn Thirteen and went into the barrier, that left Sebastian Vettel with a lot to do after failing to get a lap in. While Kvyat failed to take part in qualifying for his home race, a power unit failure in FP3.

The race started with drama, Daniel Ricciardo, Romain Grosjean and Antonio Giovinazzi all colliding at Turn Four. The Italian was trapped between the Renault and Haas in the corner, with Ricciardo making contact it pitched the Renault into Grosjean and the barriers. Both retired from the race.

Mercedes played the long game as the tension boiled over at Ferrari. Vettel led the race from Leclerc, the team instructed the German to allow Leclerc back into the lead. Vettel refused, forcing Ferrari to engineer the swap, but that swap gave Mercedes the upper hand.

The German team took control of the race in the latter stages, while Vettel’s race went from bad to worse, he stopped on track handing Hamilton a free stop. That left Leclerc struggling on the medium tyres while Mercedes had fresher tyres which allowed him to take the victory. Ferrari had again lost a race on strategy.

Race Result – 1) L. Hamilton, Mercedes, 01:33:38.992, 2) V. Bottas, Mercedes, +3.829, 3) C. Leclerc, Ferrari, +5.212

What to watch for?

Mercedes are the favourites having won every race in Sochi and again they have built a car which has performed well at a variety of tracks, however, this circuit should see Red Bull closer than we saw at Monza and Mugello. The last two races have seen accidents although its unlikely we could see major interruptions, Sochi remains a street circuit and that can make overtaking more difficult.

Through out his career, this has been a very good circuit for Valtteri Bottas, he has qualified in the top ten every season and been on the podium numerous times. The Finn knows that the coming weeks are going to be very important if there is going to be a major shift towards stopping Lewis Hamilton claiming his seventh world title.

Red Bull, need to be there then to pick up the pieces, Ferrari I believe are going to be stronger at this race as we come off a series of high-speed races. The Scuderia performed decently in Budapest, this is a downforce track where speed isn’t as important as at recent races.

Ferrari, I think know they are battling in the ultra-competitive midfield where we have seen throughout this season. The question is can they deliver a good result in the midfield scraps they are currently in, these at the last two races have provided much of the drama and they will all be looking to recover lost points. But they need to be careful, as that eagerness to recover the lost ground can lead to more problems, not necessarily on the track.

Eyes will be on Daniil Kvyat at his home race, he has a race-winning car and can he use any drama to get himself a good haul off points. Kvyat needs some kind of response as his teammate Pierre Gasly, who won at Monza. Gasly also has something to prove after being knocked out in Q1 at Mugello.

2018 vs 2019 Race Data

P1 Fastest

P2 Fastest

P3 Fastest

Q1 Fastest

Q2 Fastest

Q3 Fastest

Race Time

Fastest Lap

2019

01:34.462 01:33.162 01:32.733 01:33.032 01:32.434 01:31.628 01:33:38.992 01:35.761

Diff

-0.040 -0.223 -0.334 -0.622 -0.161 +0.241 +06:13.811 -0.100

2018

01:34.488 01:33.385 01:33.067 01:32.410 01:32.595 01:31.387 01:27:25.181 01:35.861

A lap of Sochi Autodrom

Sebastian Vettel comes out the corner and heads to the outside, running along the kerb and builds his speed along the straight, keeps the speed through the flat out Turn One. He then goes to the outside of the track along the run to Turn Two, breaking at 100m before the turn. Hits the kerb on entry, then on exit he runs to the inside, before running through the centre at three. Before going to the outside for four, he runs close to the apex, before going to the outside.

Breaks at the 50m metre board for five, hits the apex before running to the outside. Carry’s the speed through the kink which is turn six. Then goes to the outside for seven, runs straight through the corner and runs to the outside, before recrossing the track. Breaks into eight, hits the apex run to the inside carrying speed. Breaks on outside of the circuit for ten, hits the apex and runs to outside along the kerb. Flat through what is effetely a long straight.

Breaks a 100m before turn twelve, turns in nicely setting himself up nicely thirteen and fourteen going nice through. Runs to the outside before crossing the track hits apex of fifteen and sixteen, runs to the outside where he says. He breaks into seventeen hits the apex, runs to the outside. Cross the track, hits the apex then goes to the outside and across the line, with a 01:33.194.

Tyres

White Hard (C3)

Yellow Medium (C4)

Red Soft (C5)

Jack

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