Russian Grand Prix preview

One week on from the horrific scenes that marred the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix, Formula One continues its world championship in Russia. Lewis Hamilton goes into the sixteenth round of the championship holding onto a 10-point lead but will he extend that to lead or have it cut back come the chequered flag.

The Russian Grand Prix has never featured in the Formula One World Championship but since the 1980’s, Russia has planned to have its name in Formula One. Back in the early days, original plans contained a track based in Moscow with the race titled “Grand Prix of the Soviet Union” making its way onto the Formula One calendar before being striped due to bureaucratic barriers. After this, Bernie Ecclestone continued his bid to have a race held behind the Iron Curtain before Hungary took the privilege in 1986.

Fifteen years past between the inaugural Hungarian Grand Prix and the next landmark stage of Russia’s bid to host a Formula One Grand Prix in 2001 and by now Vladimir Putin had come into power

This time it took just two years before the next plans were made for a Russian Grand Prix in Moscow. Yet despite the council approving the construction plans of the track in the Molzhaninovsky area, a commercial dispute brought matters to a close.

One penultimate attempt was then made in 2008 with a Formula One circuit being constructed in the Fedyukino, Volokolamsky District of the Moscow Province. The circuit, named the Moscow Raceway, was designed by legendary Formula One track designer Hermann Tilke. However like the previous attempts, the race never made the F1 calendar. Although unlike the Pulkovskoe Ring and Nagatino Island projects, the Moscow Raceway was actually completed, and in 2012 it held the Formula Renault 3.5 and 2.0 Series. With these being the first internationally accredited motorsport events to hold a round in Russia.

But in 2010, Formula One and Russia agreed a deal to see the F1 world championship travel to Russia from 2014 till 2020, and that year has finally come. It could prove to be a vital round in the 2014 Formula One drivers championship, but Russia will have its own moment in the spotlight this weekend, when the F1 circus moves into Sochi.

Russian GP official track guide from formula1.com

Russian GP official track guide from formula1.com

The first Formula One Russian Grand Prix will be held this Sunday at the Sochi Autodrom, based in the Black Sea resort. With the circuit itself based around the stadiums used for the 2014 Winter Olympics and also designed by Hermann Tilke.

In total the Sochi Autodrom is 5.853 km long and consists of 12 right-handed and six left-handed corners, combining both high-speed and technical sections. Over the weekend, the maximum speed is expected to reach 320 km/h down the 650-metre straight located between the first and second corners.

With no racing currently held at the Sochi Autodrom, the high action areas are yet to be clearly identified. But from my point of view, I can imagine most of the action will unfold down the main straight or the back straight along with turns 2, 13 and 17. I have selected these corners as my corners to watch simply as turn 2 and 13 come at the end of the straights so I expect the late breaking overtakes to come here. As for turn 17, this corner comes along side the pit lane entrance but I have chosen it as a corner to watch because I believe it can offer a late chance to gain a position at the end of the lap.

Ahead of their 2014 Formula One game, Codemasters have released a hot lap video from their game highlighting the Sochi Autodrom. Here you can see all the corners of the track from behind the wheel of Daniil Kyvat’s Toro Rosso ahead of his home Grand Prix.

In terms of form going into this weekends race, Lewis Hamilton enters Russia on the back of a hatrick of wins. He actually only completed his first ever hatrick of Grand Prix wins back in China earlier this year, but has now regained his momentum and with it the championship lead. Not only that, Lewis has almost managed to go on and match the total amount of Grand Prix victories he took in 2011, 2012 and 2013 combined, just in 2014.

As for Lewis’ championship rival, Nico Rosberg has been forced into taking two second places and an unfortunate DNF in Singapore before relinquishing the championship lead. Come this weekend, the unknown certainty that comes with a new track may provide Nico with the best circumstances to claw back a handful of vital points.

Red Bull and Williams have the chance to challenge the Silver Arrows this weekend as the circuit appears to offer a good amount of high-speed sections, which will benefit the Mercedes powered Williams, and the twisty middle sector should benefit the Red Bull’s.

But the attention this weekend will not just be on the Silver Arrows battle for the drivers championship and Russia’s Formula One debut, the eye’s of the Formula One world will also be on Marussia following Jules Bianchi’s horrific crash at the Japanese Grand Prix.

Jules crashed out of the race on lap 42, and collided at speed with the rear of a JCB which had been sent out to collect Sutil’s Sauber following the German having an identical crash just one lap earlier. The crash destroyed the body work of Bianchi’s Marussia but more importantly left him unconscious.

He was immediately sent to the circuits medical centre before being transported to a nearby hospital. Where his condition was checked extensively and after a CT scan, it was revealed Jules had suffered critical head injuries and needed immediate surgery. Thankfully that surgery was completed and Jules remains in hospital as he continues in his recovery.

If you are wishing to the first Russian Grand Prix live on tv in England, both the BBC and SkySports have coverage of the race for you.

Here is a full run down of SkySportsF1’s coverage of the weekend including the return of GP2 and GP3:

Thursday 9th October 2014
14:00 – F1 Drivers Press Conference – Live

Friday 10th October 2014
06:45 – F1 practice 1 – Live
09:00 – GP2 practice – Live
10:45 – F1 practice 2 – Live
12:55 – GP2 qualifying – Live
14:00 – F1 team principal press conference – Live
15:00 – The F1 Show – Live
17:00 – F1 practice 1 – Replay
19:15 – F1 practice 2 – Replay

Saturday 11th October 2014
06:30 – GP3 qualifying – Live
08:45 – F1 practice 3 – Live
10:15 – F1 qualifying build up – Live
10:35 – GP3 Race 1 – Live
11:20 – F1 qualifying – Live
13:35 – GP2 feature race – Live
19:20 – F1 – Ted’s Qualifying Notebook

Sunday 12th October 2014
07:55 – GP3 race 2 – Live
09:00 – GP2 sprint race – Live
10:30 – F1 Russian GP – Track parade – Live
11:00 – F1 Russian GP – Build up – Live
12:00 – F1 Russian GP – Race – Live
14:30 – F1 Russian GP – Paddock Live
17:15 – F1 Russian GP – Highlights
18:15 – F1 Russian GP – Ted’s Notebook

As for the BBC’s coverage:

Friday 10th October 2014
06:55 – F1 practice 1 – Live – BBC2
13:20 – F1 practice 2 – BBC2

Saturday 11th October 2014
08:55 – F1 practice 3 – Live – BBC2
11:15 – F1 qualifying – Live – BBC1

Sunday 12th October 2014
11:00 – F1 Russian GP – Build up – Live – BBC1
12:00 – F1 Russian GP – Race – Live – BBC1
19:0 – F1 Russian GP – Highlights – BBC3