5 Reasons We Love... The Russian Grand Prix
Fresh from a night race in Singapore, it's straight back down to business with back-to-back races as Formula 1 heads to the Russian Grand Prix. Here's why we love going racing at Sochi Autodrom…
1. The circuit winds around Olympic venues
Sochi was put on the world sporting map by the 2014 Winter Olympics, as the host city for the games. While many events took place in the nearby mountains, the Olympic Park was built with not only that event in mind, but also the inaugural Russian Grand Prix to take place later that same year, as well as the FIFA World Cup.
As a result, the spectacular Olympic venues that were built incorporated the track itself, winding through the park. So from Turn 4 onwards, the circuit wraps around the Bolshoy Ice Dome, then passes behind the Adler Arena in the middle sector, all with the main Olympic Stadium forming part of the backdrop.
And then there’s the iconic Turn 3…
2. Turn 3
The high-speed 180-degree corner curves around the medals plaza used for the Olympic Games, and has been the scene of plenty of action in the five races held here to date.
The opening lap often sees incidents as the field tries to navigate through the corner on cold tyres, often going side-by-side at high speed. There have also been some special overtakes pulled off mid-race, with Lewis Hamilton passing Sebastian Vettel on the exit of Turn 3 a year ago, and Charles Leclerc going round the outside of Kevin Magnussen.
Magnussen’s current Haas team mate Romain Grosjean also had a big crash here back in 2015, catching some oversteer and sliding wide into the barrier for a violent impact in a display of just how tricky a corner it is.
3. Mountains or sea? Both are close by
If the backdrop of Olympic Park venues is not enough, then there are two distinct landscapes in opposite directions at Sochi. The track is located right by the beach on the Black Sea, with the seaside resort on a near-identical line of latitude to Monte Carlo.
But if heading to the beach isn’t your thing, then there are mountains within a short drive. The Winter Olympic Park and ski resorts in the Krasnaya Polyana region are only an hour’s drive inland, courtesy of a motorway built for the games back in 2014.
That’s not to say you have to venture far outside of the race track for entertainment, as there is also a theme park right beside Sochi Autodrom. The eclectic Sochi Park features a castle hotel and a rollercoaster restaurant alongside a number of other rides for thrill seekers to get a further adrenaline rush within walking distance of the circuit.
4. Daniil Kvyat has his own grandstand
The first Russian Grand Prix coincided with Daniil Kvyat’s first season in Formula 1, and he enjoys strong support at his home race. Kvyat may not have been the first Russian to race in F1 – that honour going to Vitaly Petrov – but he has his own grandstand in Sochi and finished fifth here on his second visit in 2015.
A controversial clash with Sebastian Vettel the following season proved to be Kvyat’s final race for Red Bull as he was demoted to Toro Rosso and eventually dropped altogether in late 2017 – but he has fought his way back and is enjoying an impressive season that has included a shock podium in Germany – the third of his career.
While the top three teams enjoy strong support at almost any venue, Kvyat is sure to have plenty of backing on his first appearance at his home race in over two years.
5. F2 and F3 return – and both titles could be decided…
After a weekend without the junior categories in Singapore, both Formula 2 and Formula 3 return in Sochi, and for the latter it is the championship-deciding round that could see more home celebrations.
F2 could also see Nyck de Vries crowned champion in Russia, although there remains a final round in Abu Dhabi at the end of the year. With a 59-point advantage over Nicholas Latifi, de Vries will be champion if his lead is not cut by more than 10 points this weekend. With a total of 96 points still available, any one of Latifi, Luca Ghiotto, Jack Aitken or Sergio Sette Camara could theoretically take the title down to Abu Dhabi.
At the same time, the first season of the inaugural FIA Formula 3 Championship – formerly GP3 – comes to a conclusion and the drivers’ title is still to be decided. Prema secured the teams’ championship at the second race in Spa, but two of its drivers are set to battle it out in Russia.
Robert Shwartzman is the clear favourite to take the crown, with the Russian’s three victories this year giving him a 33-point advantage over team mate Jehan Daruvala. With 48 points in total available there are many permutations, but Shwartzman is likely to secure the championship with a top-five finish in the opening race, as long as Daruvala doesn’t take pole position or set the fastest lap.