Prixview – Russian Grand Prix

Prixview Testing & Race Reports

Round sixteen of the season sees Formula One head to the largest country on earth for the Russian Grand Prix. After a century hiatus, the Russian race was reborn in October 2014, the Sochi Autodrome takes in many of the venues used for the 2014 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Sochi is a holiday resort built on the Black Sea, the circuit winds through the Olympic Park creating a 5.848km circuit. Venues include the Fisht Stadium, used for this year’s World Cup, Bolshoy Ice Dome and the Iceberg Place. The circuit is a street circuit effectively, but like Singapore, it is a low downforce circuit and high speed.

Mercedes have a 100% record, the first Russian Grand Prix was held in Saint Petersburg on the Baltic Sea in 1913. The race was won by Benz (now Mercedes) and in all races held in Russia, they have taken the victory. But Russia would have to wait a century until it returned.

Plans for the Russian / Soviet Union Grand Prix first emerged in 1980’s, however, the race was dropped for bureaucratic reasons. The first race in the Soviet bloc was the Hungarian Grand Prix in 1986.

In the early 2000’s, the first plan was for the Pulkoskoe Ring near the capital Moscow that plan was never built. Moscow looked at two other options in the Molxhaninovsky district and then a decade

This race remains controversial, the wars in Ukraine and Syria, LGBTQ rights, allegations of medalling in the 2016 Brexit referendum and US election, and the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in March, means this comes at a time when tensions are high between Moscow and the west

Sochi, however, is a circuit where overtaking is difficult, there are opportunities to overtake. Sector one is largely made up of straights and the eye conic sweeping curve around the Medals Plaza creates multiple lines and opportunities for overtaking, as well as the sweeping straight from eleven to fourteen. The final sector takes on a more street circuit, a series of ninety-degree corners make up the final four corners.

This is by far not a classic street circuit, but the backdrop of the Olympic Park, the Black Sea and the Caucasus means that it is a brilliant location for the race.

This circuit has been a Mercedes stronghold since 2014, there win in Singapore on a street circuit has given them more chances of winning again this season. Valtteri Bottas has always performed very well here as well,  finishing in the top four every time he has seen the chequered flag and last April took his first Grand Prix win here.

Facts and figures

Race 2018 VTB Russian Grand Prix
Venue Sochi Autodromo, Sochi, Krasnodar Krai, Russia
Circuit Length 5.848KM (3.634 MI)
Laps 53
Race Distance 309.732KM (192.459 MI
Lap Record 01:40.896 (Finland Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 2014, F1)
Most wins drivers Lewis Hamilton (2)
Most wins manufacture Mercedes (6)*

*1913/14 completed under the Benz name

Fast facts

  • Mercedes have won every Russian Grand Prix, two in the 1910’s and every one since it joined the world championship in 2014.
  • Sochi is the fourth-longest circuit on the Formula One calendar, behind Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, Baku City Circuit in Azerbaijan and Silverstone in the UK.
  • Russia is the largest country in the world, approximately 1.8 times the size of the US. Russia shares a border with 14 countries including Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, China, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and North Korea. No other country has as many borders.
  • 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 (Jacarepaqua).
  • According to Brembo, Sochi Autodrom falls into the category of the most demanding circuits for brakes. The Sochi track earned a difficulty index of eight, identical Monza’s rating.

Event timetable

Session Local BST
P1 11:00-12:30 09:00-10:30
P2 15:00-16:30 13:00-14:30
P3 12:00-13:00 10:00-11:00
Qualifying  15:00-16:00 13:00-14:00
Race 15:10 13:10

What happened in 2017?

Valtteri Bottas held off Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel as they fought throughout the race to take his first win of his career. Bottas jumped the Ferrari on the second start and stayed in control as he and both Ferrari’s pulled away from Lewis Hamilton in fourth.

Hamilton looked to have struggle following his tyres in the second stint and complained his car was overheating during the first half of the race. He was unable to catch Raikkonen but was clearly ahead of the Red Bull of Max Verstappen. The Dutchman was also in a race by himself, after teammate Daniel Ricciardo retired with a break problem.

What to watch for?

Sochi is a very similar circuit to Baku, it has high-speed sections and a low-speed section. Straight line speed and braking are very important as drivers face a long flat-out section between turns nineteen and two, eleven and fourteen which should favour Mercedes and Ferrari.

However, in the tighter final sector, the Red Bull should be stronger. This isn’t a traditional street circuit, because it has been used all year round. Sochi is demanding on brakes, turns two and fourteen are places which require huge stops after flat-out sections.

One of the best places for overtaking is around the Bolshoy Ice Dome, the circuit curves around the dome creating the multi-apex turn four. The breaking into turn two is very important and the exit of three as the speed goes down.

2017 vs 2018 Race Data

  P1 Fastest P2 Fastest P3 Fastest Q1 Fastest Q2 Fastest Q3 Fastest Race Time Fastest Lap
2017 01:36.074 01:34.120 01:34.001 01:34.041 01:33.264 01:33.194 01:28:08.743 01:36.884
Diff -2.000 -3.463 -2.402 -1.945 -2.073 -2.223 04:33.054 -3.010
2016 01:38.127 01:37.583 01:36.403 01:36.006 01:35.337 01:35.417 01:32:41.997 01:39.094

Data Profile

A lap of Sochi Autodrome

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.



Team Hypersoft Ultrasoft Soft

L. Hamilton

Mercedes 7 4


V. Bottas

7 4 2
S. Vettel Ferrari 9 3


K. Raikkonen 8 3


D. Ricciardo

Red Bull – Tag Heuer 9 3 1

M. Verstappen

9 3


S. Perez

Force India – Mercedes 9 2 2

E. Ocon

9 2 2

S. Sirotkin

Williams – Mercedes 8 4 1

L. Stroll




F. Alonso

McLaren – Renault


2 3
S. Vandoorne 9 2


P. Gasly

Toro Rosso –Honda 8 4 1

B. Hartley

8 3 2

R. Grosjean

Haas – Ferrari 9 3 1

K. Magnussen

9 2 2

N. Hulkenberg

Renault 10 1 2
C. Sainz 10 2


M. Ericsson

Sauber – Alfa Romeo 9 2 2
C. Leclerc 9 3



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