Prixview – Russian Grand Prix

Features Prixview

Round fifteen takes Formula One to the sight of the 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Games Sochi. Since 2014 the Olympic Park has also played host to the Grand Prix, the 3.634-mile circuit winds its way around the venues used creating a semi-permeant street circuit and fifth longest on the calendar.

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 a long curve around the medal plaza at Turn Four. The circuit is one where overtaking can be difficult.

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 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.

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.

Although a semi-street circuit, safety cars don’t tend to feature as much when you think about this race one of the longest flat-out sections between turn Ten and Thirteen as well as Turn Eighteen to Two, these straights are followed by hard braking zones which present

The 2014 race saw Grand Prix racing return to Russia for the first time in a century, the pre-war races were also won by Mercedes along with India it’s the only race in the world where one constructor has won every race. The races were held in St Petersburg in 1913 and 1914, but F1 announced after a 110 year absence the Grand Prix would return to the city in 2023.

Lewis Hamilton took the first win at Sochi continuing Mercedes record which continues to his day, his outgoing teammate Valtteri Bottas took his first podium in 2014, his first victory came also in 2017. Over the five years, they have appeared to be equally matched on single-lap pace and has given up victories in Sochi to help Hamilton in the championship.

Bottas the following season restarted the debate about team orders to allow Hamilton to extend his championship lead over Sebastian Vettel, and he then took the lead when Max Verstappen made his pit stop late in the race. The Englishman then took the lead when the Dutchman made his pit stop going on to take his third win in Sochi.

Hamilton led another Mercedes one-two the following year after overtaking pole-sitter Charles Leclerc and building a lead in the VSC caused by his Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel crashing. Under the VSC a wheel nut issue caused George Russell who went straight on into the barrier.

Leclerc losing the lead after attempting the overcut in the closing stages, but couldn’t get past Bottas allowing Hamilton to go onto victory in a Mercedes one-two.

Last year’s race saw Bottas drive a steady race after getting past Hamilton on the opening lap. He always knew that he had the upper hand, following a messy qualifying when Hamilton was forced to run get through Q2 on the soft tyres. But again Mercedes had the upper hand in the race, with Bottas effectively handed the victory to Hamilton

Facts and figures

Round 15 of 22
Race VTB Russian Grand Prix 2021
Venue Sochi Autodromo, Sochi, Krasnodar Krai, Russia
Configuration Grand Prix
Circuit Length 5.848km (3.634mi)
Laps 53
Race Distance 309.732km (192.459 Mi)
Lap Record Race 01:35.761 (United Kingdom Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 2019, F1)
Outright N/A
Most wins drivers Lewis Hamilton (4)
Most wins manufacture Mercedes (9)

Fast facts

  • The race is one of two Grands Prix where only one manufacture has taken victory, Mercedes have nine wins including two in St Petersburg. As teammates, Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas have taken two wins each.
  • 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.
  • Sochi is one of nine cities to have hosted the Olympics, one of eight 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), Fuji (which held road cycling for Tokyo 2020) and Rio de Janeiro (Jacarepaguá).

Event timetable

Session

Local

BST

Friday

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

Saturday

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

Sunday

Race 15:00 13:00

What happened in 2020?

Lewis Hamilton looked the man to beat going half a second faster than Max Verstappen after the Mercedes driver just got through to Q3 after losing his fastest time and was unable to improve. Valtteri Bottas was third fastest, holding the upper hand on Hamilton along with Verstappen starting on medium tyres.

Ferrari’s qualifying saw both cars out in Q2, Charles Leclerc missing out by a few tenths. Leclerc and Vettel had only just managed to scrape through in the closing moments of Q1. However, Vettel’s crash towards the end of the session brought out the red flag, leaving those in the drop zone with just one lap to try and improve.

Bottas took victory driving a calm and steady race after finding his way past Hamilton early on, while Verstappen needed to take avoiding action. Mercedes advantage was clear, the Dutchman dropping seven and a half seconds behind. Hamilton meanwhile picked up a ten-second penalty after making two practice starts outside the designated area breaking two of the race directors notes.

However, the stewards made a U-turn later in the evening they rescinded the three penalty points they had awarded for Hamilton’s practice start violations. Instead they decided that Mercedes were equally to blame with €25,000 fine with the points being removed from his licence.

Sergio Perez finished a strong fourth for Racing Point, overtaking Daniel Ricciardo in the first stint with a fine move around the outside at Turn Four. For the Mexican that was his best finish of the season, but was unable to take advantage after being stuck behind the Renault

Race Result – 1) V. Bottas, Mercedes, 01:34:00.364, 2) M. Verstappen, Red Bull – Honda, +07.729, 3) L. Hamilton, Mercedes, +22.729

What to watch for?

This race will be about whether Mercedes can hit back at Red Bull, the team are starting to look as if Red Bull have the upper hand as they won two of the three races appearing to be an equal if not ahead. But Sochi is very different it’s a street circuit where downforce is more important than straight-line speed

Red Bull believes this circuit won’t suit them as it’s a low-speed high downforce which should then. Mercedes have been very strong at this circuit and it is one where Valtteri Bottas is a lot closer to Lewis Hamilton and on some cases beaten him, but I think its very likely that Mercedes will use team orders. However, now he has been let go is he likely to play the team game? We don’t know for certain how the behaviour will change at Mercedes in the way Bottas behaves in races? I think he has hinted to wanting to continue to be a team player.

McLaren took their first victory in nine years which further underlines how close the battle for third in the constructors championship is. I think looking at the type of circuit Sochi is Ferrari should be a lot closer, in Monaco we saw Charles Leclerc take pole, however its highly unlikely that we could see a repeat but I think they will be more competitive.

While McLaren and Ferrari are taking centre stage in the battle for third, you cannot forget about Alpine who are still mathematically in the fight. I think baring another freak result they are going to face a challenge to fight for third, but easily should be ahead of Alpha Tauri.

2019 vs 2020 Race Data

P1 Fastest

P2 Fastest

P3 Fastest

Q1 Fastest

Q2 Fastest

Q3 Fastest

Race Time

Fastest Lap

2020

01:34.923 01:33.519 01:33.279 01:32.630 01:32.405 01:31.304 01:34:00.364 01:37.030

Diff

+0.461 +0.357 -0.454 -0.402 -0.029 -0.324 +22.632 -23731

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

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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