“Last year’s Russian Grand Prix ended in a great team result with Felipe finishing in P6. I was rather unlucky that weekend as I wasn’t able to finish the race. Immediately after the race started I ran into Nico (Hulkenberg) after he spun in turn two, so my race was over. However, we were quite competitive that weekend, so I am looking forward to racing on this track again.”
“Looking back to last season, I had a great race weekend in Sochi. We took every opportunity we could and maximised what we had. In the end I was classified in P6, which was my second best result in Formula One. For this year, I still hope we can sort out the issues I had during the last race weekends. I am confident that the team is doing its best and everyone is working hard.”
“Sochi Autodrom is a great-looking track; I can’t wait to try it out on Friday. It’s essentially a street circuit and they’re always fun to drive. This one is quite fast and having the Olympic Park in the middle of it is something a bit different. For us, hopefully we have been able to continue improving our set-up so we can unlock a little more of the car’s potential. There’s still plenty of work to do there.
“Fundamentally we have a good package and every race we’re making progress, but it’s still very early days. There’s plenty we can do in every area to improve and find more performance. I’m learning a huge amount with each new race and we’re really starting to work well together as a team, so it’s a combination of factors that will help push us forward. It’s exciting to see how we can build from here.”
(On nearly winning in GP2 in Sochi last year) “Yes, it would have been my fourth win of the season. I took the lead on the final lap but in the end I had to settle for second after I was judged to have overtaken under the Safety Car. It would have put me in contention for the title too. Still, it was a good race for me. I’m looking forward to getting a feel for the track in an F1 car.”
Dave Ryan, Racing Director
“This race brings the opening run of long-haul events to a close, together with the logistical demands that go with that. On the plus side, tyre degradation at this track should be less severe than at the past three circuits. We have plenty of data from the two occasions that the team has raced here but this event has moved from its previous autumn slot to April so we’re looking at lower temperatures and maybe rain to spice things up a bit. It’s a really interesting circuit; a fast-flowing, medium-high downforce track that’s a combination of street and permanent circuit. It’s quite a technical challenge, with a couple of notable characteristics, in particular Turn 3, the multi-apex left-hander, and quite a few off-camber corners. We’re looking forward to getting to grips with it.”
“The first thing I remember from Russia is my good qualifying! It's always good to start the race from the highest spot possible and starting P9 in Russia meant already being in the point's positions…
“Even though we unfortunately didn't have a good start in the race: I arrived to Turn 1 and Hulkenberg spun in front of me, we collided in Turn 2 and I had a puncture. It wasn't great, as I had damage on the car and it all got very tricky but I still tried to do my best.
“The track itself has many 90 degree corners, so it's difficult to find the right line. Turns 13 to 16 are a complicated section of the track, as they are all slow-speed corners and if you get the positioning right you can gain a lot of lap-time there.
“My favourite part of the track is Turn 3 because it's flat out and goes past all the Olympic flags, which you can see when you arrive to Turn 2.
“After a strong race in China, I hope for another good result in Sochi.”
“When racing in Sochi, at the start of the lap there's a lot of slipstream, so it's possible to arrive to Turn 2 with four cars side by side…
“One thing I don't like, especially here at this second corner, is the wide tarmac run-off areas, where a lot of cars just run wide instead of committing to the corner. Turn 3 is a very nice corner which is flat or very close to it – it's such a long corner and you just keep upshifting, reaching quite high lateral g-forces.
“I remember that Turn 4 is a good overtaking spot. After that there are four consecutive 90 degree corners before arriving to the back straight. Turn 13 is another good place for overtaking, but what this part of the circuit brings to mind is my terrible crash from last year – I'd say the biggest of my career so far. The final part of the circuit consists of another four 90 degree corners. The walls are also pretty close throughout the lap, which makes it a bit more of a challenge.
“Last year's race was quite exciting so I hope for another one like that and to be able to continue scoring points!”
“It doesn’t feel like it’s been too long since we last came to Sochi, but I’m looking forward to comparing last year’s car performance with the MP4-31’s. Our car feels very positive, and our progress is encouraging, but I hope we can achieve the potential we can see in our package and put in a promising performance on Sunday, which is when it all counts.
“It’ll definitely be a tricky race – competition in the midfield is very tough, and a lot of the teams are looking pretty strong, with solid reliability. We had a smooth weekend reliability-wise in China and we’re definitely learning a lot race-by-race, so I’m hopeful we can have a stronger result in Sochi. This race is particularly hard on fuel, so along with the tyre strategy there’ll be a lot of elements to manage. With each day I feel stronger since my accident, and I can’t wait to get back in the cockpit again on Friday and see what we can do.
“I enjoyed racing in Sochi in both 2014 and 2015 – the track lends itself to close battles and I hope we’ll be able to mix ourselves in with the pack again there this year. The long, fast straights are generally where our car is weaker, but it’s very well balanced, so I’m looking forward to seeing if we can maximise the strengths of our package at this track.
“I particularly enjoy Turn Three; it’s a sweeping, multi-apex left-hander that requires a lot of precision; it’s easy to get out of shape as you go around the corner, so good balance and car control are very important. Many of the corners are off-camber too, so it’s fun trying to hook it all up all the way through a lap.”
“The Sochi Autodrom is one of the fastest city courses we go to, so it doesn’t share many of the same characteristics in terms of set-up compared with other similarly configured tracks. For a modern venue, the racing there has so far been pretty good – the track is wide and fast, and there are a few good overtaking opportunities and some interesting, slower corners at the end of the straights to mix it up a bit.
“The asphalt has a lot of grip, so it’ll be interesting to see the different directions the other teams go in with regard to pit stops and tyre strategy. The new tyre rules definitely spice things up a bit as more variables are brought into the mix, so we’ll need to get on top of that to maximise our chances of keeping positive momentum through to the end of Sunday’s race.
“The last couple of races have been a bit like rolling the dice for us, and we haven’t managed to hook up the perfect weekend yet. We’ve seen some promising results on a Friday and Saturday, but over a long Sunday afternoon race we’ve found it more difficult to maintain our pace. The car feels good and we’re definitely heading in the right direction, but we need to keep pushing and working hard to bring more improvements and power for us to see further progression.
“That said, we knew China would be a tricky circuit for us over a race distance, and we struggled for pace with our tyres towards the end. Hopefully Sochi will be an easier race to manage tyre-wise; we’re consistently putting new parts on the car, and we saw improved reliability at the last race. It’s easy to say we deserved to take more from the first three races, but we need to pull together all of the elements over all three days to give ourselves a fighting chance of scoring some points.”
Eric Boullier, Racing Director
“This is our third visit to the Sochi Autodrom, a fantastic purpose-built facility in the heart of the ‘Russian Riviera’ and surrounded by the architectural legacy of the 2014 Winter Olympics. Every Grand Prix there so far has been very well organised and the fans make us feel very welcome.
“With each race weekend, we’re learning a lot about the strengths and limitations of our package, and our development programme is relentless as we seek to achieve improved performances on a Sunday afternoon. We know there is a lot of potential in the MP4-31, but there’s still some work to do both by McLaren and Honda to unlock it, which we haven’t managed to do so far.
“Russia was the venue of one of our stronger performances in 2015, and we’re all very keen to replicate that next weekend. Our focus is pulling together all of our strengths and ensuring we can battle with our nearest rivals as high up in the pecking order as we can – and consistently over a race distance. We’re certainly making improvements in all areas, so we’ll be pushing to translate that to the final classification screens in Sochi.”
Yusuke Hasegawa, Honda R&D Co Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer
"It has only been seven months since the team was last in Sochi, where Fernando celebrated his 250th race last year, but it’s a pleasure to be back at such a dynamic circuit.
“Sochi remains a demanding track for us. The long straights combined with the stop and start nature mean the balance of energy management is essential to get right during the sessions. Unlocking power and managing fuel will also be key, and, with fuel consumption high, it will be important for us to recover as much energy as possible under braking.
“Overall, the track is quite technical, so it will certainly be a challenge for the team and the drivers. We think that our power unit is nearly there, so we’re looking towards another solid weekend of running and hope that we can be in a position to score some points in the race on Sunday."
“Sochi is a nice track to drive. It’s a mix between a city circuit and a normal circuit. It’s a race I enjoy and one we have traditionally done well at. I don’t know Russia very much, as we stay in a small town and spend most of our time at the hotel or the track. I like racing there and I hope the event gets bigger every year. From what I know of the track, I’m hopeful it will suit this year’s car, but it’s too early to say for sure.”
“Russia is my neighbouring country, being Finnish. Sochi is a very technical track and I find it really interesting to drive. I’ve always had pretty good results there. Last year it didn’t end up the way I wanted, but normally I’m pretty quick and we are competitive there as a team. One challenge in Sochi is that the asphalt is quite smooth, so in qualifying it’s not easy to get the tyres to work quickly enough for the timed lap. That has been a challenge in previous years, but hopefully we have fixed it and I’m sure we’re going to have a good weekend in Russia.”
“The Sochi Autodrom circuit is very wide with nice low kerbs which allow the drivers to attack the corners. It’s a reasonably high speed circuit with a lot of time spent at full throttle which also means fuel usage is quite high. In the past, harder tyres have been quite competitive, whereas the supersoft tyres we see in qualifying might be quite difficult to get good performance out of at the end of the lap from turns 13 to 18. Last year it was an easy one-stop race but having the supersoft tyres in use this year - which some cars will be required to start on depending on qualifying position - may mean that a one-stop strategy may not be the best way to achieve the maximum result. This is a circuit where we have been competitive in the past, and whilst the first three races have not yielded as many points as we would have liked, we hope Russia will see an improved result for us.”
“There was plenty going through my head after China, as you’d expect. But, after all these years, experience has taught me to stay calm and keep pushing forwards when I get knocked back. I’ve been here before a few times now. A lot can happen over the next 18 race weekends and I have the utmost confidence in this team. But adversity is part of the journey: it brings us closer, makes us stronger and I know that together we’ll bounce back, so I’m confident of better weekends to come. There are lots of positives to carry into the next battle. If nothing else, I know after these first few races that I can still overtake! I had a great start in China too, so hopefully I can continue that and use it to my advantage to build my races from a better base. It’s Russia up next – a race that I’ve won on both occasions so far and a track that seems to suit me pretty well, so let’s see what we can do there…”
“It’s great to see that we still have the quickest car out there and, of course, it’s always the plan to win every race. But I would never have expected the first three weekends to go the way they have. I’ve made the most of my opportunities and I have a bit of an advantage in the points right now – but we are only three races down and it would just take one bad weekend for that gap to disappear. Lewis is still the benchmark for me as he is the current champion, Ferrari haven’t shown what they can do yet and Red Bull also look like they’re getting stronger, so it’s going to be a good battle and I’m looking forward to that. I wouldn’t have it any other way. For now, I’m just taking things race by race, focusing on doing my own thing and getting the job done to the best of my ability. That approach has worked out well for me so far. Now, I can’t wait to get to Sochi. I was looking good all weekend last year until a technical problem put me out of the race and I had great fun fighting from the back the year before, so I know I’m competitive at this track. It holds great memories of celebrating the two championship wins with the team too, so I’m excited to be heading back and seeing how we perform.”
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
“We may have made a solid start – but at this stage it’s about collecting points without looking too much at the championship. We are just three races down with 18 still to go. I have no doubt that we will see a close fight on all fronts right up to the end of the season. Both drivers are a good place mentally. Nico is on great form but keeping his feet firmly on the ground. Lewis would have every right to feel disheartened by his start to the season – but he is calm and confident, handling adversity like a true champion. We have an important week ahead for the sport, with our final Strategy Group meeting to define the regulations for 2017. After three Grand Prix weekends so far in 2016, we have seen that performance between the teams is converging to create great racing. Whether we have the reactivity as a group to recognise that and consider retaining a regulatory framework that is working well remains to be seen.”
Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)
“It’s unusual to be returning to a race just six months after the previous edition. Such a significant calendar shift could bring quite a different climatic profile too. This is our third trip to the Sochi Autodrom, so it will be interesting to see how the track has aged. In the first two seasons we saw a very smooth track surface. With that in mind, the allocation of the medium, soft and supersoft compound for this year is quite a conservative choice. Another interesting feature is that Sochi has the longest run down to the first braking zone of any circuit on the calendar and it’s a heavy braking event, which can easily catch drivers out on the first lap. After eventful opening laps in Bahrain and China, there could be early drama once again on Sunday. We’re looking forward to being back in Russia and aiming to replicate our strong form in Sochi on previous occasions. After a less-than-satisfactory weekend in China from a reliability perspective, one of our priorities is to have a clean weekend on both sides of the garage. In any case, we look forward to putting on another exciting race for the sport’s growing fan base in Russia.”
"I can't believe this weekend is going to be my 100th race weekend in Formula One. Where has the time gone? It's a nice achievement and hopefully I can get a result to make it a weekend to remember.
"The goal is to get some more points on the board in Russia. The last two races have been frustrating for different reasons and I don't think we've shown our full potential yet. In China I really struggled with tyre degradation, but I don't think that will be such an issue at Sochi because it's a much smoother surface."
"Going back to Sochi brings back happy memories from our podium last year. I really like the track and they did a good job with the layout. I think every driver enjoys turn three because it's an unusual corner with high energies and a long duration. You can take it flat, but it's the one corner on the track which really takes the life from your tyres.
"I think we can be competitive this weekend. We didn't get things right in China and just missed out on points, so we need to concentrate on improving our race pace. It's often those difficult weekends where you learn the most and see where you can improve, so I'm confident we can be in better shape this weekend."
Vijay Mallya, team principal
"In all honesty we expected more from the start of the season, but for various reasons the cards have not fallen for us. It's worth making a comparison with 2015 because after three races last year we were in a similar position with seven points - one point more than we have this year - and that turned out to be our most successful season ever. With eighteen races to go there is a long season ahead and we have plenty of opportunities to turn around our fortunes.
"There is no doubt that we have an inherently quick car. We've always qualified inside the top ten and Checo lined up seventh on the grid in China. In the race we fell a bit short, so that is one area where we can improve. We are also working hard to bring an upgrade package to Barcelona: it's an aero step and further suspension evolutions, which will bring some performance gains.
"The objective is to be inside the top ten in qualifying and the race. That's a realistic goal and we will be disappointed if we don't come away with some points. We demonstrated last year that we can be competitive in Sochi and it's also the 100th race weekend for Nico and Checo, so we want to celebrate the occasion with a special result."
"Sochi is pretty unique with some interesting corners so it's a bit different from the other tracks we visit. The grip level's pretty good from the track surface too. In terms of layout, turn three seems to go on forever but you're flat on the throttle. Then there are a lot of corners where it feels you're braking too late but where the exit opens up and there you have to focus on getting the exit right. You have to be a little bit different in how you approach your driving there."
"My first aim [for Sochi] is to get back to a Melbourne level of performance where I was happy with the car. As a team too, we were happy with the level of performance as we were through to Q2 in qualifying and near the points in the race with both cars quite evenly matched. I haven't been able to replicate that in the last couple of races so that's what we've been focusing on. We know that Russia won't necessarily be the very best circuit for us, but I'm focused on my own performance to extract the very most I can from behind the wheel."
Frederic Vasseur, Renault Sport racing director
"China was a tough weekend for us from the beginning. The suspension issue on Kevin's car meant we lost a lot of running time and this had a particularly detrimental effect this time. This meant that not only he missed out on running, but we didn't accumulate the necessary comparison data between the tyres so making set-up choices for the rest of the weekend was a challenge. For Sochi we do expect an improvement from where we were in China, that's for sure.
"We are looking at every single detail. At Viry every detail of the power unit is being looked at and at Enstone every aspect of the chassis is being looked at. It's not a question of focusing on one area, it's a question of looking across the board at every detail. We know we have a lot to do, we know our targets so that is what we are working towards."
Bob Bell, chief technical officer
"Sochi is an interesting circuit in terms of engineering challenges. It is essentially a street circuit however the layout doesn't demand maximum downforce. There are a lot of 90° corners so straight-line braking and traction are called for, with less emphasis on mid-corner balance. It is a demanding circuit for brakes and tends to require a harder tyre compound as there's a significant loading on the tyres through the long turn three-four combination so it's likely to be a one-stop race."
"[China] was a difficult weekend for us and certainly not the outcome we had wanted. It still feels like it was a negative weekend, but in the near future, I'm sure we'll see positives from it because it's in the tough situations you learn the most. Hopefully, we can learn what happened. If anything was wrong with the car, what can we do better? What can we do differently? How do we react in a better way if we find ourselves in a similar situation? I think it's one of those things you have to face as a new team, but I'm sure we're going to react very well, as we have done so far every time.
"[Sochi] is a good track to drive. I think the corners flow into each other quite nicely, [and] I like turn three. It’s a very high-speed corner, a fun place. There’s a very long straight line to start, followed by big braking into a right-hand side corner, taken in third or fourth gear. Then you have the famous turn three, which is flat out in qualifying. Then you go into turn four – you can carry quite good speed into it. The next few corners are very similar. They flow nicely and you enjoy some good speed in the car. Then you go on the backstraight, again with very tricky braking. Then the last section of the track is much slower, in particular the last two corners. The pit entry is also a bit tricky. The finish line is straight at the last corner, so depending if you’re on a qualifying lap or a racing lap, each one is different."
"It was a very big relief to finally do a lot of consecutive laps [in China]. I was enjoying the car and the race so much that I could have continued for another 50 laps, probably. It was quite a tricky situation by not being able to practice on Friday and having the wet session on Saturday morning. Basically, we didn’t have many laps under our belts and it was quite a challenge to arrive into qualifying directly without any preparation, but still having to do proper laps. I think we managed it pretty well as a team.
"[Sochi] is a track that is pretty stop-and-go. It requires a very different setup to what we had in China. I love the first sector. It’s a nice, big braking into turn one, then you have the long turn three which is flat out. Then you have a series of medium-speed corners which are also quite fun."
Guenther Steiner, team principal
"We just couldn't get the car to do what we wanted it to do [in China]. We had a problem with Esteban's car, so he went out very little on Friday, which was part of our overall problem. We cannot make mistakes like that over the entire weekend. Not even Romain can catch up if we are not using our time as efficiently as possible.I think at some point we always knew we'd have a setback, and it came in our third race. We'll just try again in Russia to get it right and end up where we should be.
"The silver lining is we finished with two cars, which was a first for us. It wasn't as successful as we wanted it to be, position-wise. We had seven pit stops total with the two drivers and they all worked well. We gained a lot of confidence in our pit stops, but we learned that managing two cars during a race is a lot more difficult that managing one. Now we are better prepared to take two cars to the finish, as we should."
“Sochi is not the Russia I pictured before I first went there. All of a sudden I saw a beautiful blue beach, which made me feel as if I was in a resort and they also have a very modern facility with the Olympic Park.
“I think the track hasn’t suited us in the last two years, but we’ve had some strong races so far this year on circuits we didn’t think suited us either so let’s see what happens. In the past it’s been quite a low grip. It got a bit better last year but it’s still quite slippery and because there is not that much tyre wear we haven’t done many pit stops in the past.
“There is not much camber change which you get on a lot of tracks. Also the corners are very flat and because of that quite unique. I’m looking forward to going back.
“The hotel we’re staying in has a very nice restaurant called Fellini. But because we spend so much time at the track we don’t really get the chance to see much. I’m going to try this year and speak to Dany to get some local advice. I think Dany will get a very busy week ahead but I don’t think it compares to Australia because it is the first race of the season, so you get more media anyway. I know how he feels though: it’s a week of survival.”
“I’m very excited to get back to Russia for the Grand Prix. It’s an important race for me and it’s nice to see my family and friends and all the fans who come to support me and the team in Sochi. I can’t wait!
“It’s a very modern track with a few corners that look quite similar but they are never as easy as they might look, because you have to try and drive the car on the limit each time you turn. I think Turn 4 is the nicest corner, and it’s also the grandstand named after me. I see my face on that corner often during the race, and that support is really nice. Any time I want to say something cool I say: I have a grandstand named after me!
“It will be a hectic week and thinking about Daniel’s busy week in Australia it’s a bit of a payback for me in a way but you already got into quite a good rhythm after the first few races so you’re used to it in a way. In the end it’s my home race and that gives me an extra boost as well. It’s very nice to have a home race. It’s very special for every driver so I think I’m very lucky to have one.
“When back in Sochi I like to go and visit a sauna. It’s a very classic thing to do in Sochi and it’s quite nice to go with a couple of good friends and have a relaxed evening. I did play some ice hockey last year as well and they have an Olympic Village there so there is a lot of sports to do. During race week I also enjoy to take a walk along the nearby seaside.”
Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director
“We’re back to Russia just six months after coming to the race previously, which means that we can probably expect conditions in spring to be different from how they were last autumn. This is one of the lowest degradation tracks we visit all season, so we can expect to see some quite long stints even on the supersoft, as Lewis Hamilton showed last year. However, the performance increase that we have consistently observed from the 2016 cars will increase wear, so free practice will be very important to get an accurate read on tyre behaviour in these new conditions with the latest generation of cars.”
More to follow.