2014 Russian Grand Prix Preview
The 5.853km/3.637-mile track is located in the heart of the Black Sea resort and it weaves its way around the infrastructure originally installed for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Sochi Autodrom facts & stats
Despite plans for a Russian Grand Prix being mooted as far back as 1983, the Sochi Autodrom is the first purpose-built Formula 1 facility in the country. The track was given the green light in October 2010 – since then, acclaimed architect Hermann Tilke has designed and built a challenging 18-corner layout that is the third longest track on the 2014 calendar.
Construction of the circuit began in 2011, but the finishing touches could only be applied after the closing ceremony of the 22nd Winter Olympics in February 2014. The final layer of asphalt was laid just 70 days ahead of the race and the circuit was officially opened at the end of September.
The track is ostensibly a street circuit, but it has an interesting mix of permanent and temporary sections. The infrastructure around the paddock and pitlane is permanent, having originally been erected for the Winter Olympics, but the track itself is temporary. It’s lined by walls, it has little run-off and it will punish driving mistakes.
However, the presence of two straights – the longest of which is 650 metres – pushes speeds higher than many permanent circuits on the calendar. Simulations carried out by McLaren predict an average speed of 215km/h, placing the track on a par with Albert Park in Melbourne and making it quicker than Monaco, Montreal and Singapore.
The 18-corner layout contains several of Tilke’s signature design features. The two longest straights are book-ended by slow corners in an effort to help overtaking, and there’s a multi-apex left-hander towards the start of the lap that is reminiscent of Turn Eight in Istanbul – albeit with a much slower entry speed.
The asphalt is quite abrasive because it contains a special polymer that gives the surface extra grip, but such is the predominance of slow corners around the lap that Pirelli are able to take relatively soft compounds to the race. The combination of Soft (Option) and Medium (Prime) tyre compounds was last used at the Belgian Grand Prix, and will provide the drivers with plenty of mechanical grip.
Sochi Autodrom – the stats you need
Race distance: 53 laps (310.209km/192.764 miles)
Start time: 15:00 (local)/11:00 (GMT)
Circuit length: 5.853km/3.637 miles
Quotes From the McLaren Team
“It’s always interesting to visit new circuits – it’s fun to get out and explore the contours of the track, the kerbs, the run-offs, the camber – all the things that you don’t really fully experience until you’re on-site and able to see the track for the very first time. That’ll be my priority on Thursday.
“From what I’ve seen of the place, it’s sort of a mix between the tracks we raced on in Valencia and Korea – plenty of long, fast straights hemmed in by concrete walls and high barriers, and a selection of medium-speed corners that seem to have been designed to test the abilities of a car.
“As with all these new venues, they only really begin to unlock themselves once you get out on the track for the first time. I’ve lost none of my enthusiasm for going to new places, so I’ll be keen to get out there on Friday morning and get a feel for the place.” Jenson Button
“The layout sort of looks a little bit like Abu Dhabi – it has the curving straights into very precise, tight corners, which will really require a lot from the car because it’ll be trying to snap away mid-turn. Like Yas Marina, it looks pretty flat, too.
“It’s hard to see a key place for overtaking – there are no particularly big stops or opportunities where you can really place your car up the inside. Turn 11, which is the right-hander at the end of the back straight, might be a good possibility. Turn 13 could be an option, too.
“A new track is always an interesting test. As a rookie, I’m looking forward to the opportunity to compare myself to the other drivers on more of an equal footing. It should be an interesting weekend.” Kevin Magnussen
Formula One’s top drivers are preparing to enter the unknown at this week’s Russian Grand Prix. Sergio Perez has said he plans to walk round the Sochi track and then cycle it ten times. It is, he says, the only way to have any real idea about how best to approach it when he gets behind the wheel of his Force India racing car.
In an age when all the top Grand Prix drivers will have driven the circuit umpteen times behind the wheel of a simulator, it underlines just how far away the computerised experience remains from the real thing.
If Perez would rather trust a combination of his feet and two wheels powered by a pedal to know what’s involved, it rather suggests that, however advanced and state of the art the simulation technology might be, it’s still a world away from the reality.
All of that is worth bearing in mind as you look at the odds for this week’s race where Lewis Hamilton is once again the massive odds-on favourite at just 1.76 to be the winner. Maybe you can understand why after three race wins in a row – but the track will hold such mystery that surely nobody should be odds on?
Sebastian Vettel is expecting the track to be slippery over the first part of the weekend before the asphalt gets used to the thundering power of the F1 tyres, and the cars have laid down enough rubber to provide some decent grip.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery is admitting he won’t know if the right tyre choices have been made until after Friday’s free practice session. Pastor Maldonado is recalling the first races at Austin where the track, in his words, was “super slippery at the beginning and then session after session we got quicker.”
Now I’ve lost money by opposing Hamilton in the last three races, so I’m not going to make that mistake again. He seems to have got himself into a good place mentally where he’s cut out all the errors that he made earlier in the campaign.
But as for actually backing him, that’s a different matter at such a skinny price. He’s only 2.54 for the qualifying/winner double, and don’t forget that Nico Rosberg took pole in Japan.
I’d rather look for some value, and Vettel seems to be the man to provide that again. He’s had two podium finishes in a row, has clearly recovered his taste for racing, and with the anticipation of a move to Ferrari before next season will be right back into positive thinking.
He’s somewhere around 29.0 in the early market to be the race winner, but the best bet – like Singapore – is to take him as the winner without Hamilton or Rosberg, which will be available at around 5.0.