Formula 1 returns to action this weekend for the sport’s second visit to the Sochi Autodrom, which winds its way around the park which hosted last year’s Winter Olympics, adjacent to the Black Sea. Lewis Hamilton returns to the scene of his 2014 triumph with a 48 point lead over Nico Rosberg, while Mercedes can clinch its second successive Constructors’ Championship at the scene of its first triumph.
Russia hosted a couple of Grands Prix in the early 1900s but last year marked Formula 1’s maiden visit to the country at a semi-permanent street circuit at Sochi. The predominantly flat layout is characterised by a sequence of 90 degree corners, with the walls in relatively close proximity and the defining corner being the fast left-hander at Turn 4, as the circuit negotiates its way through the arenas which hosted the Winter Olympics.
“In the car it’s 90° corner – straight – 90° corner – straight, so in terms of driver satisfaction it’s a little flat,” says Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.
“In some ways the Sochi track reminds me of Singapore and Abu Dhabi,” explains Force India driver Sergio Perez.
“That’s because there are lots of 90 degree corners and acceleration zones, which put high energy through the rear tyres. There are some quick parts of the lap too. I remember last year that Turn 12 was quite difficult because you are pulling high g-forces and braking for Turn 13 at the same time.”
Last year it was Hamilton who had an untroubled run from pole position to victory, after team-mate Rosberg went wide at Turn 2 and had to pit early.
Mercedes will clinch the Constructors’ Championship if it collects three more points than sole rivals Ferrari – a lead of 172 points will be sufficient and its current advantage is 169. Mercedes also clinched the 2014 title in the corresponding race but if it achieves the feat it will have done so in Round 15/19 – last year’s Russian Grand Prix was the 16th of 19 events.
Last year’s Russian Grand Prix was criticised for a lack of action and a straightforward one-stop strategy has led tyre supplier Pirelli to go one step softer with its compounds this weekend, meaning that the Super Soft and Soft tyres will be available to drivers.
There will be two DRS zones – the first along the straight exiting Turn 1 and the second along the back straight, after Turn 10.
Derek Daly, who started 49 Formula 1 races, will act as the driver steward.
Timetable (GMT +3):
Friday 9 October
- Practice One: 10:00 – 11:30
- Practice Two: 14:00 – 15:30
Saturday 10 October
- Practice Three: 12:00 – 13:00
- Qualifying: 15:00 (60 minutes)
Sunday 11 October
- Race: 14:00 (53 laps or two hours)