Formula One 2017 Track Guide: Russia

Formula One 2017 Track Guide: Russia

We move to Russia for the fourth part of VAVEL's guide to all the tracks used in 2017 Formula One season. The Sochi Autodrom is now in its fourth year, with Mercedes ruling the first three of those.

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James Eagles

Weaved around the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics, the Sochi Autodrom takes Formula One to the Black Sea, for the Russian Grand Prix.

The second host for the Russian Grand Prix, the Sochi Autodrom saw the first race in Russia in exactly 100 years, taking over from St. Petersburg. In its first three editions, Mercedes have enjoyed unparalleled dominance.

And whilst venues may come and go, some things never change, as it was also a Mercedes-Benz that was first to the flag in 1913 and 1914 at the hands of Georgy Suvorin and Willy Scholl respectively.

Mercedes have enjoyed good success around Sochi. | Photo: Getty Images/Mikhail Metzel
Mercedes have enjoyed good success around Sochi. | Photo: Getty Images/Mikhail Metzel

Composed mostly of 90 degree corners of similar elevation, with three fast curves providing some much needed variety, the circuit came under criticism in its first year, with fans citing the opening race as dull. However, a change in tyre choice from Pirelli has seen an upturn in the quality of racing since.

Despite not participating in his home race, former Renault and Caterham driver Vitaly Petrov helped bring momentum to the project, over three decades after the Soviet Union saw their request to host a race in 1983 turned down.

And, for the first time in this series, Michael Schumacher doesn't hold the lap record.

Track guide

After crossing the start-finish line, build up the revs and approach the flat out right kink of Turn 1, opening the DRS fractions beforehand. Move over to the left hand side of the track, wary not to mount the kerb as that'll hamper your braking efficiency.

At the 100 metre board, move down to third gear and chuck the car through the right-left chicane of Turns 2 & 3. Stay in the middle of the track for most of Turn 4, a long, demanding left that takes you round the Sochi Medals Plaza, before getting the front end to bite towards the inside kerb for the exit; it'll help you take the best line through the rudimentary right of Turn 5.

The first braking zone cost Rosberg the win in 2014. | Photo: Getty Images/Peter J. Fox
The first braking zone cost Rosberg the win in 2014. | Photo: Getty Images/Peter J. Fox

Make sure you don't take liberties on the exit as the barrier edges closer to the track after the exit kerb finishes. Turn 6 is another 90 degree right, look out for your braking point just after the 100 metre mark. Turn 7 is flat, used as a setup corner for the deceitful right of 8. 

Commit to the corner, but don't go in with too much heat, it's very easy to run wide. Drag the car back to the right and brake under the small bridge for the first part of a double left. Turn 9 is the slower out of the two, and you can carry good speed whilst negotiating 10, just be aware that the back end will want to overtake the front!

Turn 11 is vital for a good lap time, find your braking reference, roll the car through the right and be as early on the power as possible; a long, curved stretch of tarmac awaits.

Open the DRS and relax, take a look at a few numbers on the steering wheel display, round the small left kink and it's back to work. Immediately after said left comes the demanding braking zone for Turn 14.

It's very easy to lock the front brakes, as you're still bearing steering load whilst decreasing speed. To make matters worse, the right is sharp in comparison to the previous few corners, and leads on to a clunky left that tightens on exit.

The layout bends around the Winter Olympic site. | Photo: Wikipedia
The layout bends around the Winter Olympics site. | Photo: Wikipedia

Watch the traction as the car wants to drift out wide, reel it in before braking for the slow chicane of 16 & 17. A short squirt of throttle will take you to the penultimate corner, just past the pit entry.

Third or fourth gear is the preference for this 90 degree right, third is best for the final corner - a carbon copy of the one you've just done. The finish line comes at you immediately on exit.

If you're on a final Qualifying lap, boot the throttle and slide over the line in a crescendo of revs - it bears similarities to the old final corner at Magny-Cours in that respect. Any other lap though, be smooth on the throttle and do it all over again in just under 100 seconds.

Statistics

Most wins for a driver: Lewis Hamilton - 2

Most wins for a constructor: Mercedes - 3

Lap record: 1:39.094 - Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 2014

Did you know?

At 5.848 kilometres, the track is the third longest on the F1 calendar, sitting behind Silverstone (5.891km) and Spa-Francorchamps (7.004km).

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