Round 15 of the 2015 Formula One World Championship takes us to Russia. Read on for my preview to the Russian Grand Prix at the Sochi Autodrom.
Formula One enters Russia for the second time for its return to the Sochi Autodrom, where Lewis Hamilton took victory at the inaugural race. But to make it back to back Sochi success, Lewis will need to hold off Vettel and Rosberg at a track they have yet to run the supersoft tyres at, and those being the tyres Mercedes struggled with in Singapore.
At the inaugural Russian Grand Prix, Hamilton won the slightly action-less race after Rosberg locked up heavily at the start of the race. The lock up caused him to pit later that lap and nurture his new set of tyres until the end as the best race strategy was only a one-stopper.
To counter that this year, Pirelli will be providing the paddock with the two softest compounds, which last saw use in Singapore as Mercedes struggled with their set-up and switching the tyres on while Vettel and Ferrari won the race.
Mercedes last year showed they could adapt to the new track the best in their dominant car to win the race from pole with Hamilton, while Rosberg came home in second place despite his early lock up and pit stop. This year, they will need to go down the correct set-up route from the off in FP1 on Friday in order to prevent a repeat of Singapore and another race win escaping them.
Should Lewis not be able to take the win on Sunday and it fall to his team-mate or Vettel, he will see his current 48-point championship lead over Rosberg (and further 11-point lead over Vettel) reduced going into the final four rounds. As it stands, only those three drivers can mathematically still win the championship, but with every round Hamilton edges his rivals, his third title creeps a bit closer.
For this year’s race, the 5.848KM Hermann Tilke designed track remains the same with a 650-metre straight separating the first two turns which will also be the first of the two DRS zones. Last year’s race saw drivers reach speeds of 332 kmh on the straight, and this could be improved upon this year with the softer tyres and the stronger power units in play by Ferrari and Mercedes.
Other than the two DRS zones, overtaking will be hard to come by without a daring move in the braking zones for one of the many 90˚ corners or chicanes. The long turn three can also set up an overtake should the driver behind exit turn two in close proximity and have a aerodynamically strong car that can withstand high speeds while turning.
Given the aerodynamical importance this track needs, Red Bull should come back into play after a poor display in Japan. This could come to the aid of Hamilton as it can either see more cars fight for the podium positions and he can create distance from his championship rivals, or his title rivals can put cars between themselves and Hamilton as Lewis looks to move forward depending on the way the race unfolds.
Form would suggest however Hamilton will be out in front, but as mentioned in Singapore the teams struggled which came to the benefit of Red Bull and Ferrari. Rosberg as always needs a win if he is to create a real challenge to Hamilton in the title race, otherwise each race is another nail in his title dreams’ coffin.
Sky Sports and the BBC have live coverage on TV of the Russian Grand Prix based around the stadiums used in the 2014 Winter Olympic games. For the BBC, they will also be bringing live coverage of the F1 action from the Black Sea resort on radio while Sky will also be bringing live coverage of the GP2 and GP3 action. Coverage begins with the drivers press conference on Thursday, before the on track action goes green the following morning.
Thursday 8th October
13:00 – Driver Press Conference (Sky Sports F1)
20:45 – Paddock Uncut: Russia (Sky Sports F1)
21:00 – Russian GP Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
Friday 9th October
07:45 – F1 Practice 1 (Sky Sports F1)
07:55 – F1 Practice 1 (BBC Two)
07:55 – F1 Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
10:00 – GP2 Practice (Sky Sports F1)
11:45 – F1 Practice 2 (Sky Sports F1)
11:55 – F1 Practice 2 (BBC Red Button)
11:55 – F1 Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
13:55 – GP2 Qualifying (Sky Sports F1)
15:00 – F1 Team Press Conference (Sky Sports F1)
16:00 – The F1 Show (Sky Sports F1)
18:45 – Inside F1 (BBC News Channel)
Saturday 10th October
07:30 – GP3 Qualifying (Sky Sports F1)
09:45 – F1 Practice 3 (Sky Sports F1)
09:55 – F1 Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
09:55 – F1 Practice 3 (BBC Two)
11:15 – F1 Qualifying – Part 1
11:25 – GP3 Race 1 (Sky Sports F1)
12:10 – F1 Qualifying (BBC One)
12:15 – F1 Qualifying – Part 2 (Sky Sports F1)
12:55 – F1 Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
14:30 – F1 Rewind (BBC Two)
14:35 – GP2 Race 1 (Sky Sports F1)
Sunday 11th October
07:55 – GP3 Race 2 (Sky Sports F1)
09:00 – GP2 Race 2 (Sky Sports F1)
10:30 – Track Parade (Sky Sports F1)
11:00 – Pit Lane Live (Sky Sports F1)
11:00 – F1 Russian Grand Prix Race (BBC One)
11:00 – F1 Russian Grand Prix Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)
11:30 – F1 Russian Grand Prix Race (Sky Sports F1)
14:15 – Forum (BBC Red Button)
14:30 – Paddock Live (Sky Sports F1)