This year Russia will host Formula One racing for only the second time in history - but did you know that the occasion also offers Lewis Hamilton the chance to join a very elite group of drivers? Or that Mercedes could clinch back-to-back constructors’ titles this weekend? We take a look at the weirdest and most fascinating stats and trivia ahead of the 2015 Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix...
Sochi made history in 2014 when it became the first Russian city to host Formula One racing. It proved a happy weekend for Lewis Hamilton: he was fastest in all three practice sessions, took pole by 0.2s, and then led every lap en route to a 13s victory.
However, Hamilton was denied a ‘Grand Slam’ (pole, fastest lap, win, every lap led) by Williams’ Valtteri Bottas who enjoyed his own breakthrough: he set the fastest lap of a race for the first time in his career. His 1m 40.896s remains the current official lap record.
Nico Rosberg meanwhile claimed second place courtesy of the longest single stint of the entire season - he managed 52 laps on one set of tyres after out-braking himself and flat-spotting his tyres on the opening lap and coming in for an early pit stop.
That early mistake also led to a rather odd trend for Rosberg. As he fought his way up the order, he spent at least one lap in 17 different positions in total - the biggest spread of any driver in the entire season.
It could be a case of history repeating this weekend as Mercedes, who clinched the 2014 constructors’ championship on Russian soil, are poised to clinch the 2015 version in Sochi. Already 169 points ahead of Ferrari, the Silver Arrows need to outscore the Scuderia by just three points to achieve the feat. Surprisingly, back-to-back constructors’ triumphs aren’t altogether uncommon - indeed only one team, Brawn, has ‘failed’ to defend their silverware in the past decade.
Hamilton meanwhile could join a very select group of drivers if he prevails on Sunday. In history, only eight drivers have won the first two Grands Prix at a circuit new to F1 racing - Hamilton could make that nine this weekend. Sebastian Vettel (India, Abu Dhabi), Michael Schumacher (TI Aida), Nigel Mansell (Barcelona, Magny-Cours), Nelson Piquet (Imola, Hungaroring), Carlos Reutemann (Rio), Emerson Fittipaldi (Interlagos, Nivelles), Jackie Stewart (Montjuic Park) and Alberto Ascari (Nurburgring, Zandvoort) are the eight to have achieved the feat (Stirling Moss and Juan Manuel Fangio also did it through shared drives).
There’s more good news for Hamilton. With five races to run, the Briton leads team mate Rosberg by 48 points in total. Barring last year’s Abu Dhabi finale, it is the biggest margin the Briton has ever had over a team mate at any point in any season.
As for home favourite Daniil Kvyat, last year’s Grand Prix yielded a then-career-best fifth place in qualifying. Having switched from Toro Rosso to Red Bull over the winter, the 21-year-old has only bettered that once this season, when he booked fourth on the grid at Singapore - the best-ever grid slot for a Russian driver.
On the subject of Kvyat, this may be his ‘home’ race, but the Red Bull star was born some 1,707km (1,061 miles) northeast of Sochi in the city of Ufa.
As for Sochi itself, did you know that it has the northernmost tea plantation in the world, in use for more than a century and counting?
Sochi, of course, hosted the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, and the Grand Prix track is situated within the Olympic Park, winding between such iconic buildings as the Iceberg Skating Palace and Bolshoy Ice Dome.
Speaking of the Olympics, Sochi is one of six cities to have hosted both an Olympic tournament and a world championship Grand Prix. The others are Berlin (AVUS), Los Angeles (Long Beach), Melbourne, Montreal, Barcelona and Sochi. Rio de Janeiro, home to the Jacarepaqua circuit which hosted 10 races between 1978 and 1989, will join the list next year when it hosts the summer games.
But perhaps the most unusual fact about Sochi is that it is regarded as the second longest city in the world, stretching as it does 144km (90 miles) along the Black Sea coast. The only city that beats it for length? The host venue for round 17 of the 2015 FIA Formula One World Championship - Mexico City…