Stefano Domenicali, Circuit de Catalunya, 2019

Will teams welcome Domenicali as F1 boss? Seven Russian GP talking points

2020 Russian Grand Prix

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Formula 1 heads to Sochi for the 10th round of the world championship this weekend following yesterday’s news that the sport will soon have a new CEO.

Can Domenicali expect a warm return?

As RaceFans revealed yesterday evening, Stefano Domenicali is to return to Formula 1 as CEO in place of Chase Carey. He’s well-known and well-liked, but will Ferrari’s rivals have concerns over another former figure from the team taking a senior position in the sport?

After all, last year Ferrari said it opposed the potential appointment of Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff to the same position. However Wolff was still in charge of Mercedes at the time, whereas Domenicali stood down at Ferrari six years ago.

Will Sochi produce another procession?

Sebastian Vettel, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Sochi Autodrom, 2019
The Ferrari drivers were at odds in Sochi last year
Since it first held the Russian Grand Prix in 2014, the Sochi Autodrom has developed a reputation for parade-like races. Last year’s contest was swung by the timing of a Safety Car period, and enlivened by hostilities between the Ferrari drivers.

Of course the expectation was also that Mugello would not produce an exciting race. But with two red flags, two standing restarts and more overtaking than was predicted, a lively afternoon unfolded.

Standing starts in Sochi almost always hand the advantage to the cars that can benefit from the slipstream due to the long run to turn one. That could be a crucial factor if we get a red flag period for a third consecutive race.

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Will Hamilton tie Schumacher’s wins record?

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Mugello, 2020
Hamilton can tie Schumacher on Sunday
Hamilton’s latest win at Mugello brought him within range of Michael Schumacher record for the most victories in F1 history. Based on Mercedes’ form so far this season only one driver is likely to delay Hamilton’s bid to equal that record: Valtteri Bottas.

Had it not been for Mercedes’ team orders call in 2018, Bottas would have two wins at the circuit already. He has always shown strong pace at Sochi, and we may get one of the closer fights between the Mercedes pair this weekend.

This looks like being one of his better chances to usurp his team mate this season and close the gap in the championship. The team will also be under the added scrutiny of Netflix’s Drive to Survive team, which didn’t work out well for them in Hockenheim last year. RaceFans understands this arrangement was made several months previously, making Hamilton’s first shot at equalling Schumacher’s record a fortunate coincidence for them.

Raikkonen equals Barrichello’s starts record

Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo, Circuit de Catalunya, 2020
Raikkonen’s latest milestone is unlikely to excite him
Assuming Kimi Raikkonen starts the race on Sunday he will equal Rubens Barrichello’s record for most starts in F1, with 322. Raikkonen, of course, is little interested in such statistics.

But with just eight races left in his current F1 deal, the question remains how much longer the 2007 champion intends to continue in a sport he views as a ‘hobby.’ If he does step down, it could throw the likes of Sergio Perez a lifeline to remain in F1 next year.

Will Ferrari’s updates put them back in the midfield fight?

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto played down the likely impact of the upgrades the team will bring for its SF-1000 this weekend, stating they “won’t change the big picture”. However, they may be enough to put the team back towards the front of the midfield, a position they’ve fallen back from in recent races.

Sochi’s long straights will likely expose Ferrari’s drag deficit. However the car’s performance through its many medium-speed corners could prove its saving grace, particularly if the upgrade goes a small way towards easing their drag penalty.

First race for softest tyres this year

Lance Stroll, Racing Point, Mugello, 2020
The soft tyres will be softer than usual
The softest compound available in the Pirelli range – the C5 – makes its first appearance this weekend. The current cars are producing extraordinarily high levels of downforce and tyre performance has been a problem at some races as a result. Warm weather is also expected on Sunday, but Sochi has historically been a low-severity track for tyres, so we may not see teams deviate from the usual one-stop strategies.

Changes to the ‘end racism’ observance?

As reported previously, changes are being considered to the guidelines on what drivers may and may not wear in response to Hamilton’s choice of T-shirt before and after the race at Mugello. The Mercedes driver wore a T-shirt featuring the message “Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor” on the podium at the previous race.

Formula 1’s official end racism observance has been unchanged since it was introduced at the British Grand Prix. Any changes to it at this stage are therefore likely to prompt questions.

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Are you going to the Russian Grand Prix?

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Who do you think will be the team to beat in the Russian Grand Prix? Have your say below.

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Author information

Josh Holland
USA-based Josh joined the RaceFans team in 2018. Josh helps produce our Formula 1 race weekend coverage, assists with our social media activities and...

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35 comments on “Will teams welcome Domenicali as F1 boss? Seven Russian GP talking points”

  1. Another procession? Highly likely.

    Tracks like these don’t do F1 any favours in terms of fan engagement.

    1. Good track to experiment a reverse grid start.

      1. Any track on which the race tends to be a procession (i.e. difficult to overtake) would be completely wrong for the horrible reverse grid qualifying idea for many reasons that have already been discussed. As an extreme example think Monaco.

  2. Rather than raising awareness of police entering a private residence, maybe this time vocal drivers can wear a t-shirt raising awareness of a country invading their neighbours and anexing part of it.

    1. @coldfly I’m not sure anyone is that brave. I certainly wouldn’t be.

      1. But will we see the rainbow then?
        Or will they leave the safety conveniently red for another week.

      2. But seriously, if Hamilton did a stunt like that, what would be the consequences? For his safety, and for F1 in Russia? Would he really be in danger of imprisonment (maybe not really)? And what about political fallout for the sport (very likely)?

        1. None. Woken have free pass. The violence they bring to innocents in the US, no big deal. Covid restrictions? Not if you’re FiGhTiNg | insert –ism here | and so on.

          1. @niefer your behaviour will remind a number of people of the joke that a condom manufacturer put out recently – that they had a skin even thinner than the typical right wing adult male…

          2. anon – COTD.

          3. C’mon anon, even to make a joke gotta be collectivist? :)

    2. So when police invades an appartment, people protest.

      When Army invades part of a country nobody says a thing.


      Just like global warming, people spill vitreal over tiny things and ignore major issues.

      Maybe drivers should protest police brutality in Belorus?

      1. Do you know what normally happens to people in Russia who protests against putin? It normally doesn’t end well for them.

      2. @jureo asides from the international sanctions on Russia, this is a nation that has quite happily murdered anybody who protests against Putin too much and stands accused of undertaking acts of terrorism against its own citizens (with ongoing questions about potential complicity of the FSB in the Moscow apartment bombings).

      3. Classic whataboutism. All are bad, doesn’t mean people who highlight the systemic racism in the world are wrong to do it. Not exactly what I would call a “tiny little thing”.

    3. Yea in agreement there.

  3. …whereas Domenicali stood down at Ferrari six years ago.

    My goodness, where does the time fly!

  4. Can Domenicali expect a warm return? – Too early to judge.
    Will Sochi produce another procession? – Maybe, maybe not.
    The 2015 event was fairly decent, and the last three weren’t greatly terrible either. Anything’s possible in F1.
    Will Hamilton tie Schumacher’s wins record? – Yes.
    Will Ferrari’s updates put them back in the midfield fight? – No.
    Are you going to the Russian Grand Prix? – No, but I was there last year.

    1. Changes to the ‘end racism’ observance?

      Who do you think will be the team to beat in the Russian Grand Prix?


      1. @coldfly No and Mercedes.

  5. I for one welcome our Ferrari overlords.

    1. ha-ha:)

  6. Domenicali is well suited to the job. He will be a great choice.

  7. Chase, Stefano is faster than you… his professionalism & impartiality will always be questioned by someone for being ex-Ferrari. Good luck to him: he had a good poker face in the Channel 4 interview for the Tuscan GP.

    1. Domenicali at the helm of FOM is not the issue, but Todt at the helm of FIA and his son managing drivers of Italian outfit.

    2. Not George, well, it is not an unsurprising question to ask when Domenicali has been working for Ferrari from 1991 to 2014. Having spent 23 years of his life at that team, with a number of his friends and close colleagues still working at the team, you can kind of see why there will be people asking about the possible issue of conscious or unconscious bias when dealing with Ferrari.

      As Chaitanya notes, the rather more significant issue though is the issue of Todt’s family being actively involved in managing a number of drivers – particularly if a driver then has performance related bonuses in their contract, which in turn could result in an increased payment to his manager. In that situation, there is an active financial conflict of interest for Todt that has never been properly addressed.

      1. In a democratic environment yes. F1 isn’t. You do not have to participate

      2. Also if I remember correctly Domenically had disobeyed Montezemelo and stepped down instead of firing the head of Engine dept in 2014 after disastrous season. He certainly seems to be a person with good ethics and people management skill.

  8. Paraphrasing, and playing on, @david-br‘s take I say: I, for one, bid farewell to our mustachioed overlord.

    Carey did, after all, break us free from Bernie’s style and practice. That was no minor task and I hope Domenicalli can build upon that, and If what he did for Lamborghini is any indication, good things are coming for F1.

    1. @faulty :) Actually I don’t mind Domenicalli at all. Also agree with Carey ridding us of some of the worst aspects of Ecclestone’s reign. It may be good to have someone more familiar with F1’s heritage leading the way, though.

  9. I remember last year it was reported that the 2020 race would be Sochi’s last and from 2021, the Russian GP would be held at an actual circuit close to St. Petersburg (Igora Drive). But since then there hasn’t been any confirmation or anything about that move.
    Does anyone have any information on that?

    1. I read in an article somewhere that it was unlikely, because Putin has such a stronghold on Sochi. But it would be great, because that track looks like it’s ACTUALLY a good racing track.

  10. The current cars are producing extraordinarily high levels of downforce and tyre performance has been a problem at some races as a result.

    Maybe it’s time for Pirelli to bring back their “2020” tyre range and offer them to teams to try out at some of the Final Practice sessions. If, for example, some of the lap times were better than the equivalent current tyre, then maybe it would be worth running those tyres next year.

  11. Come on man…

    Another ‘Ferrari Man’ into a key Formula 1 position?
    It’s not enough to have Todt in charge of the FIA?

    Can we expect more secret deals between Ferrari and F1?

    Ferrari must not have any special treatment. I don’r care about longevity…

    No other sport has that – Can you imagine a soccer championship were the older team has special treatment, maybe start all games winning for 1-0…. It’s ludicrous!

    1. Agreed. Humans are a funny lot in that they create these ‘traditions/religions’ which are not based on any real foundation. The only way to fairness is if the same rules applies to everyone. The current state of F1 is FIA is a figure head and the real power (not pu power) is with Ferrari.

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