The race will be the sixteenth round of the 2014 season, following on from the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka one week previously, and preceding the United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas. The race marks the first time that the Russian Grand Prix has been held in a century, and will also be the first time the Russian Grand Prix has been run as a round of the Formula One World Championship since the championship was formed in 1950.
Sochi is a new circuit, built around the Olympic Park from the Sochi Winter Games 2014. It is a street circuit in essence, like Singapore or Valencia in some ways although with faster sections and with a trademark horseshoe shaped left-hander at T3/4, which will stress out the right front tyres.
It is the third longest lap of the year after Spa and Silverstone, but with 18 corners and 12 braking zones, the Energy Recovery Systems will be functioning at their optimum, with no issues on recharging. This is a track which would have been high fuel consumption in the V8 era, but which the teams will easily be able to cover in 100 kilos or less with the hybrid turbos.
Race distance : 53 laps (310.209 kilometres).
Corners : 18 corners in total. A new circuit around Olympic Park, with a street feel to it.
Aerodynamic setup : HIgh downforce.
Top speed : 320km/h. Average Speed 200km/h.
Full throttle : 56% of the lap time (average).
Time spent braking : 10% of lap (low).
Number of brake zones : 12.
Brake wear : Average. Not a tough race on brakes.
Total time needed for pit stop : 17.5 secs (plus stop time >3secs ) = 21 seconds (ave).
Sochi is fairly temperate and stable weather wise so it looks like the temperatures will be around 20 plus degrees on race day. Sunny skies during Friday’s practice session will bring temperatures of up to 22C, and more of the same on Saturday should see the mercury hit 24C. Sunday is likely to be as warm again, though cloud cover will begin to form ahead of the race start time.
However, like Austin, it is cold at night, so the track temperature will be low for FP1 and FP3. Another thing to watch out for will be the dropping temperature as the race goes on, due to the relatively late 3pm start time. Unlike at Suzuka, dimming light should not be a problem. Sunday’s race starts at 3pm local time with sunset expected at 6:43pm.Forecast is for sunny and warm weather conditions with the chance of rain low.
Pirelli tyre choice for Sochi: Soft (yellow markings) and Medium (white markings). This combination has been used five times this year already.
The track surface is only mildly abrasive, but it will still have the oils on the surface which is normal with fresh tarmac and which could make it slippery to start with. This will disappear after a Russian winter so next year the grip levels will be higher. The tyres are likely to slide on this surface and that will increase the stress on them. Meanwhile there are a lot of traction points (like Singapore) so we are likely to see rear tyre degradation due to longitudinal forces through the tyres on acceleration.
The Sochi Autodrom will have two DRS zones for the inaugural Russian Grand Prix. The two zones will be on opposite sides of the 5.8 kilometre track and have their own detection points.
The first DRS zone will be on the run to the first braking zone, and the other will be on the next-longest flat-out stretch which curves right and left as it leads into turn 13.
The chance of a Safety Car at Sochi has yet to be established, but after the harrowing events at Suzuka with Jules Bianchi last week and the resulting spotlight on the role of the Safety Car in F1, plus a circuit lined with walls, which makes it hard for marshals to clear debris safely, it has to be presumed that the chances of a Safety Car this weekend are quite high.
Mercedes has won 12 of the 15 races so far this season, with Lewis Hamilton now on eight victories to Nico Rosberg’s four. The team will clinch the Constructors’ Championship for the first time since 1955, if they score well this weekend. They can afford to drop 17 points to Red Bull and still clinch the title on Sunday, with three rounds still to go.
The F1 teams will race under a cloud this weekend after the tragic events in Japan surrounding Marussia’s Jules Bianchi, who remains in hospital with a severe head injury. All drivers will be racing with that in mind and we may see more use of the safety car as it was only a week ago that the incident happened.
It is looking increasingly good for Lewis Hamilton to consolidate further his lead in the championship. He has been very good in the past when it comes to a completely new circuit as he can adapt very fast and very well. Looking forward to this race.
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