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2015 F1

Russian GP: Circuit Essentials

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Russian GP: Circuit Essentials

Russian GP: Circuit Essentials

(Article powered by Red Bull Racing)Last year’s Russian Grand Prix was something of a journey into the unknown and while our first visit gained us some experience of the pleasures and privations of life in southern Russia, year two will still be a massive learning curve, for teams and fans alike. So, tackling the racing first, here are our considered thoughts on the Sochi Autodrom…

First off, it’s a whopping great circuit, a proper modern F1 track in terms of being a statement facility. And in this case the statement is “us Russians still like a huge, visually arresting, monolithic public facility now and again”.

Having said that, last year’s race was superbly well organised and whether you’re arriving by train, bus, taxi or on foot accessing the track and finding your way round the huge site is pretty straightforward thanks to good directions and some very friendly and helpful volunteers on site.

The circuit itself is about 15 to 20-minutes by car from Sochi Adler airport and runs around the 2014 Winter Olympic Park. It therefore takes in some of the sites, including the stadiums used for skating and ice hockey, as well as the venue used for the Games’ opening and closing ceremonies.

Sochi has a good bus and train network and there are plenty of handy ways to get to the track. As with last year extra trains and buses will be laid on across the weekend to cope with demand, with the number of public buses rising and special bus routes being put in place in the Imeretinskaya Lowland area. From 8 to 11 October suburban trains going to the Olympic Park railway station located in front of the circuit entrance will be more frequent.

In terms of hotel accommodation Sochi is something of a mixed bag. Last year teams and media were accommodated in the Olympic Park hotels close to the track and these are likely to be well booked up. There are plenty of small hotels and guesthouses close to the track, however, and these can generally be booked for a reasonable price, which is unusual given their proximity to the track.

What we will say is that Sochi is no gourmet paradise, at least not in the environs of the circuit. Last year we struggled not just to find a great meal, we struggled to find any meals. Be prepared for long waits to get seated and serve in restaurants and don’t expect haute cuisine. It’s an experience but maybe not the one you were expecting.

2015 Russian GP Circuit Essentials

2015 Russian GP Circuit Essentials

The Track

Strange though it might seem, F1’s second visit to the track will be as much of a racing adventure as the first.
Last year tyre supplier Pirelli brought what was thought to be a sensibly conservative selection of medium and soft tyres. By Friday evening that assessment was being heavily revised as drivers and engineers marveled at the almost total lack of tyre degradation on the incredibly smooth surface.

So unexpectedly durable were the tyres that Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg was able to complete all but one lap of the race on a single set of mediums and his fastest lap was set on 51-lap old tyres.

That led to what might be termed ‘old school racing’ in which there was very little strategic variation from a dull one-stop strategy and almost no overtaking.

To redress the balance Pirelli have this year moved a step down their range and we’ll have soft and supersofts to run on a circuit that should have ‘weathered-in’ over the past 12 months.

In short it’s a different track and with different tyres. The data gathered last year, especially in terms of fuel efficiency – or the lack thereof – will be useful but it’ll take some time on Friday to figure out what we’re dealing with.

As for the track itself it’s essentially a few long blasts ending in heavy braking corners with a couple of medium-speed corners thrown in and a technically fussy stadium section at the end.

The drivers were left slightly bemused by it last year but with the tyre and fuel knowledge gained from last year, this year’s race should be a more exciting prospect.

In terms of where to watch we’re naturally going to go for the Daniil Kvyat Grandstand at Turn 3. Now, this is not just out of loyalty to our Russian star driver but also because watching the cars power through this long arc is one of the more interesting spectacles of the Sochi Autodrom.

Our standard fallback position of General Admission is also worth considering. There are plenty of good viewing points around the long track and with plenty of heavy braking points into slow corners to choose from you’ll likely see some good overtaking action somewhere along the way. (Source: RedBull Racing)

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