Like Spain’s former F1 venue in Valencia, the Sochi Autodrom is something of a faux street track.
The home of the Russian Grand Prix has the trappings of a temporary course: a slow, compromised layout which is hemmed in by barriers. But it offers the width and purpose-laid asphalt normally seen on a modern track.
Unfortunately, as was the case with Valencia, this adds up to the worst of both worlds. It’s not a particularly spectacular course for the world’s best racing cars, nor does it tend to provoke exciting races.
The very low-grip surface tends to exacerbate these problems. For F1’s fourth visit to the track Pirelli is offering its softest available tyres, but they may still be able to last half a race.
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A lap of Sochi Autodrom
With turn one no more than an acceleration zone, drivers have a one-kilometre run from the starting grid to the first significant corner at Sochi Autodrom. Turn two has been a major problem zone since F1 first visited the track, and begs the question why a better solution couldn’t have been found on a new circuit.
Track data: Sochi Autodrom
|Lap length||5.848km (3.634 miles)|
|Grand prix distance||309.745km (192.467 miles)|
|Lap record (race)||1’39.094 (Nico Rosberg, 2016)|
|Fastest lap (any session)||1’35.337 (Nico Rosberg, 2016, qualifying two)|
|2016 Rate the Race||5.4 out of 10|
|2016 Driver of the Weekend||Kevin Magnussen|
First-lap incidents are a common problem as driver funnel into the tight bend. The generous asphalt run-off offers no penalty for drivers running wide, and attempts to police this using ‘return routs’ on the outside have been mixed. Keep an eye out for more trouble this weekend.
Turn three rates as the most interesting bend on the track. The low-speed approach takes some of the bite out of it, but this year’s quicker cars should be spectacular through here. The corner punishes understeer, but the shortened braking zone for turn four should make the exit of the turn easier.
From here the drivers tackle a series of similar, medium-to-low speed right-and-left turns with little to distinguish them. Turn ten is the important one, as it precedes the long acceleration zone through two flat-out sweeps into turn 13. The approach to this corner vies with the start of the lap as the fastest point on the track, and is where Carlos Sainz Jnr has his huge crash in 2015.
An even tighter, slower section follows next, the cars navigating yet more 90-degree turns as they make their way back to the start/finish straight. It adds up to a track which is far from being the most spectacular or demanding on the calendar.
It’s Valencia by the Black Sea, then. But don’t forget even Valencia’s last F1 race was a cracker.
2017 Russian Grand Prix
- Sepang pays Haas compensation for Grosjean’s 2017 crash
- F1 better without “artificial” overtaking – Vettel
- Honda unreliability “completely unacceptable” – Alonso
- Maiden victory earn Bottas first Driver of the Weekend win since 2014
- 2017 Russian Grand Prix team radio transcript