This Sunday sees the sixth running of the Russian Grand Prix as a round of the Formula 1 World Championship. The race, the 16th of the 2019 season, is held at the Sochi Autodrom on a 5.848 km track using the roads around the Olympic village built for the winter games of 2014, held in this Black Sea resort. This is one of the few tracks at which Scuderia Ferrari has never won. In fact, Mercedes has had a stranglehold on the event, winning every Russian GP.
A brief history. The major nations of Eastern Europe do not boast an extensive motor sport history. Two races were held in St. Petersburg in 1913 and 1914, won by the Russian Georgy Suvorin and the German Willy Scholl respectively, both in Mercedes. Back in the Eighties, there was talk of holding a race in Russia, on the back of the success of the 1980 Olympic Games held in Moscow. A Soviet Union Grand Prix was even put on the provisional calendar for 1983, but insurmountable bureaucratic difficulties meant it was a non-starter. Then, at the start of the century, the rumours resurfaced, as they did again in 2012, when the Moscow Raceway became the first Russian track to be homologated for Formula 1, although no race ever took place there.
Sochi. Having established itself as the venue for the 2014 Winter Olympics, Sochi on the Black Sea was the ideal venue to finally host a Russian Formula 1 Grand Prix. The track begins not far from the railway station and then wends it way through the Medals Plaza, home of the Olympic Flame and the five-ringed medal ceremonies. The final sector is rather slow with several right angle bends that require a pretty high level of aero downforce. Scuderia Ferrari did nothing special at the first race, with Fernando Alonso finishing sixth and Kimi Raikkonen ninth. But the following year, Sebastian Vettel came second. In 2016, Kimi was third and the following year came the Scuderia’s best team result, with Sebastian again second, ahead of Kimi third. Last year, the same driver pairing finished third and fourth.
Programme. The first free practice sessions take place on Friday at 11 and 15 local time (10 and 14 CET,) while the final hour is on Saturday at 12 (11 CET.) Qualifying gets underway at 15 (14 CET) while Sunday’s race begins at 14.10 (13.10 CET.)
GP contested 985
Seasons in F1 70
Debut Monaco 1950 (Alberto Ascari 2°; Raymond Sommer 4°; Luigi Villoresi rit.)
Wins 238 (24,16%)
Pole positions 225 (22,84%)
Fastest laps 252 (25,58%)
Podiums 766 (77,76%)
FERRARI STATS RUSSIAN GP
GP contested 5
Debut 2014 (Kimi Raikkonen 9th; Fernando Alonso 6th)
Pole positions 1 (20%)
Fastest laps 2 (40%)
Podiums 5 (100%)
Sebastian Vettel #5
“We’ve raced in Russia a few times now. It’s another circuit where we’ve come close to winning but never quite managed it. I’ve started from the front row and in fact two years ago, Ferrari locked out the front row, but we really want the satisfaction of taking that last step and winning. It is something quite special racing past the Olympic Stadium and the Medal Plaza used for the Winter Games, so it’s definitely unique in terms of its setting. A lot of the corners are similar to one another, but they’re all very technical and finding the entry point can be quite tricky, as is getting the braking point right and finding the best way of rotating the car in order to be fast, while also looking after the tyres.
From a technical point of view it’s one of the trickiest tracks we have on the calendar but it’s rewarding when you’re able to put together the perfect flying lap, especially in qualifying.”
Charles Leclerc #16
“Arriving in Russia with three positive weekends behind us feels great. We have made good progress on our car, especially in terms of our performance on high downforce tracks, and seem to be more competitive on tracks with various layouts now. The Sochi circuit can be challenging, featuring a combination of high speed straights and lots of corners, especially in the last sector. I look forward to getting back in the car on Friday to see how it goes at this circuit and time will tell whether we can be as strong here as we have been lately.
The atmosphere in Sochi is unusual, in that we are surrounded by the Olympic complex. It is special to compete at a location that has played such a big part in international sporting history, which gives this place a unique feeling.”
Mattia Binotto Team Principal
“After taking three wins in a row, we are keen to get to Russia to see and check how our latest updates will work on what is yet again a different type of track. Sochi features long straights and a very smooth surface where, once again it is not that easy to get the most out of the tyres. The circuit also requires a completely different set-up and aero configuration to that for Singapore. Having a well balanced car will be a key factor.
The forecast for Sochi is for changeable weather, so it will be important to be prepared for every eventuality.”