2015 Russian Grand Prix Preview
Sochi Autodrom snapshot
“We continue to learn about our technical package at every race. I’m looking forward to racing at Sochi; it’s an enjoyable track to drive and it will be interesting to see how the softer tyre compounds affect strategy.”
“I had a good race at Sochi last year and I’m excited to go racing there again. It’s surprisingly fast for a street track, with lots of medium-speed corners and long straights. I hope we can have a positive weekend and adapt the set-up of the car as well as possible to the complexities of this circuit.”
Table of contents
- Circuit lowdown
- It's all about: THE RACE
- It's all about: THE TRACK
- It's all about: THE CAR
- Technical words of wisdom
- McLaren at the Russian Grand Prix
- Our most memorable Russian Grand Prix:
- #14 Fernando Alonso
- #22 Jenson Button
- Eric Boullier - Racing director, McLaren-Honda
- Yasuhisa Arai - Chief Officer of Motorsport, Honda R&D Co Ltd
The Sochi Autodrom is Russia’s only purpose-built Formula 1 facility. The track is located on the banks of the Black Sea, in an area known as the Russian Riviera, and it weaves its way around the Olympic Park that hosted the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
The 5.853km/3.637-mile circuit was completed just 70 days ahead of last year’s inaugural Russian Grand Prix. It’s principally a street track, although there are some permanent sections around the start-finish straight, and the drivers reported last year that the track had a similar flow to Marina Bay in Singapore.
The layout is a classic Hermann Tilke design: it has 12 right-handers and six left-handers and the track is between 13 and 15 metres wide, which encourages drivers to take various lines through the corners. The longest straights are book-ended by slow corners to aid overtaking and the multi-apex left-hander at Turn Three is the circuit’s signature corner.
The asphalt is very smooth, prompting Pirelli to change their compound allocation for this year’s race. In 2014 it was possible to complete all 53 laps on one set of medium compound tyres, so Pirelli are taking their Soft (Prime) and Supersoft (Option) compounds next weekend in the hope of spicing up strategies.
McLaren had an encouraging race in Russia last year, finishing fourth and fifth with Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen.
It’s all about: THE RACE
|Start time||1400 (local) / 1200 (BST)|
|Race distance||53 laps (full world championship points awarded after 75 per cent distance/40 laps)|
|2014 winner||Lewis Hamilton 53 laps in 1h:31m50.744s|
|2014 pole position||Lewis Hamilton 1m38.513s 213.705km/h (132.790mph)|
|2014 fastest lap||Valtteri Bottas lap 53 1m40.896 208.658km/h (129.654mph)|
|Chances of a Safety Car||Low. There was no Safety Car period during last year’s race|
|Don’t put the kettle on…||on laps 14 and 37. Hamilton took the spoils with a one-stop strategy last year, but Pirelli are taking softer compounds this year in an effort to increase the number of pitstops. Should that materialise, a classic two-stop strategy would involve stopping on laps 14 and 37|
|Weather forecast||Warm. The temperature is expected to be around 22 degrees and no rain is forecast. However, Sochi has a coastal location, with the Black Sea on one side and the Caucasus mountains on the other. Weather conditions can change rapidly|
It’s all about: THE TRACK
|Circuit length||5.853km/3.637 miles|
|Run to Turn One||450 metres/0.280 miles to Turn Two, the first braking zone|
|Longest straight||650 metres/0.404 miles, on the approach to Turn Two|
|Top speed||332km/h/206mph on the approach to Turn Two|
|DRS zones||Two – on the approach to Turn Two and again on the approach to Turn 13|
|Key corner||Turn Two, the best overtaking opportunity on the lap. The cars have to lose 205km/h (127mph) in less than 100m (0.06 miles), subjecting the drivers to more than 5g of deceleration load|
|Pitlane length||330 metres (0.21 miles), which is average. A pitstop takes about 22s|
|Major changes for 2015||A few changes to kerbs and one area of re-surfacing work|
It’s all about: THE CAR
|Fuel consumption||1.9kg per lap, which is high. It’s a long lap with lots of short bursts of wide open throttle|
|Full throttle||57 per cent. This is higher than the average for a street circuit|
|Brake wear||Average. Only 10 per cent of the lap is spent braking, which is low|
|Gear changes||40 per lap/2,120 per race|
|Did you know?||The Sochi Autodrom is the third longest circuit on the 2015 calendar, after Spa- Francorchamps and Silverstone.|
Technical words of wisdom
Jonathan Neale, chief operating officer
“Sochi proved an interesting challenge for the teams last year. It’s a relatively long lap, with an interesting mix of corners, but if there’s one aspect of the engineering challenge that stands out, it’s the asphalt. It produced unusually low wear on all cars last year, to the extent that you could do the entire race on a single set of tyres.
“Degradation and wear will be different this year for a couple of reasons: first, the asphalt will be a year older and more established and, second, Pirelli will be going a step softer with their compound choices. We should see more pitstops, but we won’t know for sure until we’ve done some long runs during Friday practice.”
McLaren at the Russian Grand Prix
Our most memorable Russian Grand Prix: 2014
The fanfare surrounding last year’s inaugural Russian Grand Prix was overshadowed by the sport’s concern for Marussia driver Jules Bianchi, who was in a critical condition after a crash at the previous weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix. Prior to the race, the drivers gathered at the front of the grid in a show of solidarity for Jules.
The track proved surprisingly fast for a street track, with an average speed of 215km/h (134mph), and its flowing medium-speed corners suited the McLaren MP4-29. Jenson Button qualified fourth and Kevin Magnussen 11th.
Both drivers got away well from the grid at the start of the race and Jenson spent the early laps in third place. The team pitted him earlier than planned, on lap 23, in an effort to stay ahead of Nico Rosberg, who was on a charge from the back of the field. Unfortunately, Jenson just missed out on keeping Rosberg behind and he finished the race in fourth place.
Some brilliant strategic calls helped Magnussen to finish fifth, giving the team its best combined result since the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
#14 Fernando Alonso
“It’s exciting to go back to Sochi, one of the newest racetracks we go to, which means there’s always a lot of anticipation. Last year’s grand prix was a fantastic event and it was good to bring Formula 1 to a completely new territory and race in front of a new group of excited fans.
“Suzuka was clearly a challenging race for us, but the support of the fans was incredible and we were still able to take some positives from it. We’re working hard on reliability and it was encouraging that we didn’t have any issues with the car all weekend.
“Sochi is a great track and the street circuit layout and tight, precise corners make it really enjoyable to drive. The two straights are long and high-speed which means it won’t be easy for us, but our car is very well balanced, so I hope we can have some good battles and make some good progress on track this weekend.”
|Age||34 (July 29 1981)|
|Best result in Russia||6th (2014)|
#22 Jenson Button
“Suzuka was a challenging race for us because of the nature of the track, but racing in Japan in front of Honda’s home crowd was an incredible experience and it really lifted everyone’s spirits.
“I’m really pleased that my plans for next year have been confirmed – I’m fully committed to this team and have strong faith in the incredibly hard work that’s going on behind the scenes in Woking and Sakura. We’ll keep our heads down and keep pushing hard to improve our car at every race weekend.
“In Sochi, I had one of my best results of the year last season, and really enjoyed driving on a new track. The surface has a lot of grip, so I’m looking forward to seeing how our tyres perform there. We’ll work closely with our guys on both sides of the garage to get the most out of every session and iron out some of the issues we had in Suzuka.”
|Age||35 (January 19 1980)|
|Best result in Russia||4th (2014)|
Eric Boullier - Racing director, McLaren-Honda
“After the challenges and emotion of Suzuka, it’s been a very important week for the McLaren-Honda team. We’ve announced a new partner for the 2016 season and beyond, Chandon, and confirmed that Jenson will be continuing to race with us next year. Both of these announcements are incredibly motivating for the whole team, and we go to Sochi with renewed enthusiasm and excitement.
“Last year’s Russian Grand Prix was an unquestionable success, and the organisers worked very hard to put on a well-organised event in front of packed grandstands of passionate fans. We had a strong weekend there last year, and, while we know the limitations of our package, we are continuing to work tirelessly on our reliability and performance to achieve the best result we can.
“There’s still a long way to go until the end of the season, and every weekend counts as an opportunity to learn, develop and apply our knowledge and experience to next year’s car. Sochi will be no different.”
Yasuhisa Arai - Chief Officer of Motorsport, Honda R&D Co Ltd
"Sochi will be a completely new track for Honda so it will surely be an exciting challenge as we are starting from scratch regarding data settings.
It is a very unique and modern track, where cars can race side by side for the first half of the lap, then close in with tricky 90 degree slow to mid corners and intense straights for the latter half. This type of track layout is likely to be demanding on our power units, but as usual the team will work hard to get the best out of the overall package.
It will be interesting to see what we can learn from this weekend."