Russian Grand Prix: Turn by Turn
Everything you need to know about the Sochi Autodrom
The 10th round of the 2020 Formula 1 season takes us to the Sochi Autodrom, a 3.6-mile-long street circuit around the former Olympic Park, the scene of the 2014 Winter Olympics. Designed by Hermann Tilke, the track debuted in 2014 and is derived from the internal roads which connect all of the facilities of the former park. The long straights and short technical areas collectively wind around facilities such as the Fischt Olympic Stadium, a 47,000-capacity football stadium home to PFC Sochi, an ice hockey rink and several arena halls for various sports.
The race history of the Autodrom is more proof of the Mercedes dominance over the last six years, winning at every grand prix since its debut in 2014. While not producing the most exciting races on the calendar, it has produced some special moments like Alex Albon’s charge from starting in the Pit Lane to P5 last year.
On Sunday, the drivers will line up on the grid with the first of a total of five grandstands on the first four corners looming over the start/finish line. When the lights go out, they’ll head towards a flat-out right hander into the first DRS zone of the track, where fans looking on from the Sergey Sirotkin Grandstand. It’s at the Vitaly Petrov Grandstand at the end of the long straight where the fans will see most of the battles happening, with the DRS zone ending into a nearly 90-degree right hander at turn 2 which is immediately followed by the flat out 180 degree turn 3.
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The 750-metre left hander bends around the Central Square of the Olympic Park and has been the scene of multiple clashes, notably a huge crash for Romain Grosjean in 2015 as well as a reckless double shunt by Daniil Kvyat in front of his own grandstand on lap 1 of the 2016 race. On the exit of turn 3 and entry into turn 4, the drivers will want to make sure they brake in a straight line as they hit another 90 degree right hander to get the best exit on a medium straight which takes us past the Fischt Stadium and towards the Black Sea. Another right hander in turn 5 takes us up onto the red and white curbs and parallel to Olympic Avenue.
Another slight right hander see’s the driver to the middle of the track as they try to hit the apex of turn 7, touching the curbs with their front right tyre but being careful on the exit with the throttle so they don’t lose the rear. With an ice dome to the right and left of them, the drivers head towards turn 8, a swooping left hander that couples up with turn 9, putting them immediately into another 90-degree right hander where they meet the second DRS zone.
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Even with a good exit out of turn 10 and DRS, it can be difficult to overtake in this zone, due to the long turn 11 and 12, with a short braking zone into the very technical third sector. With 6 consecutive 90 degree turns ahead of them, the drivers need to be precise on the brake and throttle pedals to make sure they get the best possible exits out of them as they take a right out of the DRS zone, into an immediate left, followed by a small kink before hitting a left at turn 15, then another right. The final two corners of the street circuit resemble a rectangle which leads them back onto the 900-metre start/finish straight.
Like previous Russian Grand Prix’, I wouldn’t expect an exciting race but at the same time I wouldn’t be surprised to see some drama especially around that long turn 3.