Russian Grand Prix Preview: Ferrari’s revival to continue in Sochi?

‘From Russia with love’ – there wasn’t much love, however, from Daniil Kvyat when he came together with Kimi Raikkonen at the first corner in Singapore. He may wish to keep his nose out of trouble at his home Grand Prix this time, as he returns to the track which saw his career take a bit of a nose dive, when he collided with Sebastian Vettel and lost his seat at Red Bull in 2016.

And, invariably, Vettel would much prefer to complete this year’s Russian Grand Prix at the Sochi Autodrome without incident, to build on his first F1 win in 392 days last time out at Marina Bay.

That victory gave us the hand-rubbing prospect of an intra-team war at Ferrari between Vettel and team-mate Charles Leclerc, with the latter leaving Singapore unhappy at the team’s decision to pit Vettel first. The undercut resulted in the four-time champion winning the race ahead of his upstart team-mate who, demonstrating brilliance and maturity in his debut season with Ferrari and only his second season in the sport, had taken his fifth pole position the day before.

GP SINGAPORE F1/2019 – DOMENICA 22/09/2019
credit: @Scuderia Ferrari Press Office

However, despite the tension at Ferrari, they nonetheless sent a message to Mercedes and Red Bull with their first one-two finish since the Hungarian Grand Prix of 2017, at a track where we expected the Prancing Horses to falter under the superiority of their rivals on what is a downforce-orientated circuit.

This, coupled with the fact that Lewis Hamilton seemed concerned by Ferrari’s sudden upturn, will hopefully lead us into an exciting Russian Grand Prix this weekend.

With lots of 90-degree turns, a couple of lengthy straights, and a twisty middle sector, you would lean towards Mercedes having the upper hand, but Ferrari’s surprising performance last race has tossed things up in the air.

Further down the grid, Carlos Sainz comes into this weekend seeking some improved fortune. He retired from the Italian Grand Prix due to leaving the pits with a loose wheel, and then a collision with Nico Hulkenberg on the first lap in Singapore all but ended his race. He did recover to 12th, though, as McLaren continue to supersede the works Renault team with the French manufacturer’s own engines in the back of their papaya car.

Carlos Sainz, McLaren MCL34

Romain Grosjean did little to back up Haas boss Guenther Steiner’s decision to keep him on for the 2020 season by wiping out George Russell, while Kevin Magnussen will be dodging Russian plastic bags, with a bag getting caught in his front wing in Singapore, costing him a points finish and seeing him finish last of the runners.

Antonio Giovinazzi must now build on his point-score in Singapore with a strong result in Russia, as his seat at Alfa Romeo is still not secure. Nico Hulkenberg, out of a seat next season but continuing to perform impressively, is knocking on a few doors in search of a drive, having lost out on the Haas seat for next season.

The 2019 season had its dramatic flame reignited under the sweltering heat of Singapore, but will Ferrari’s revival cool with the weather as we head to Russia? Mercedes will certainly want to make that happens this weekend.

 

[Featured image – 2018 Russian Grand Prix, Saturday, Wolfgang Wilhelm]

F1 2018: Russian Grand Prix Preview

Twisting and turning through Russia’s “summer capital” is the Sochi Autodrom, the first and only F1 track built in the country.

The 5.8-kilometre circuit takes the drivers past some impressive structures, among them a number previously used for the 2014 Winter Olympics and the stadium used at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, showing how Sochi has turned into both a popular destination for tourists and a great sporting town.

Each of the four races held at the circuit since its debut have been won by Mercedes, with Lewis Hamilton winning the first race in 2014 and Valtteri Bottas taking his first win in F1 for the world champions in 2017.

This Mercedes dominance is a trend that may well end this year. Sochi is generally a power track, and we have seen the Ferrari engine overtake the Mercedes engine this year. If Mercedes are to win, then, they will face a stern test from the Prancing Horse.

Großer Preis von Russland 2017, Sonntag – Steve Etherington

Christian Horner has said that Russia will be a race to forget for Red Bull, as they are expecting engine penalties and they are even thought to be returning to the B-Spec Renault engine after several teething issues with the engine used in Singapore. It said a lot when even the works Renault team themselves didn’t use the new spec engine, nor did their other customer McLaren.

This weekend will be the home race of Williams driver Sergey Sirotkin, who scored his first point of the season in Italy after Romain Grosjean’s disqualification, and he will hoping to add more to his tally. He certainly got some positive attention in Singapore with some brilliant defending against Sergio Perez, only for Perez to seemingly swing across the track and hit him. This, however, will be another tricky weekend for a Williams team that has suffered one of their worst ever seasons in F1 this year.

Races around the Sochi Autodrom generally don’t toss up much drama, but the first chicane is something to keep an eye on. It is a place which has seen a crash in each of the four races in the circuit’s short history, the most notorious being Daniil Kvyat twice hitting the back of Sebastian Vettel. It was a home race to forget for Kvyat and he was demoted to Toro Rosso after the race, giving way to the astronomical rise of Max Verstappen.

Großer Preis von Russland 2017, Sonntag – Steve Etherington

Sebastian Vettel arrives into the weekend some 40 points behind Lewis Hamilton in the championship, meaning that he realistically has to win each of the remaining six races of 2018 to be in with a realistic chance of claiming a fifth title.

It will be a tough challenge, but Ferrari’s championship demise has been of their own doing once again this year, and if there is to be a miracle turnaround for Vettel, it is one that must start in Sochi.

Totally Toro Rosso in Russia

Formula 1

May 1, 2017

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Before we talk about the Russian Grand Prix weekend let’s have a quick recap of what our drivers did last time out in Bahrain. Bahrain was a really disappointing race for Toro Rosso: we were expecting a lot but Sainz made contact with Lance Stroll moments after his pitstop and ended his race, and Kvyat finished in twelfth after struggling with pace in the race, meaning we come away from Bahrain empty-handed.

After the Grand Prix we had a two-day in-season test, this hopefully would give us chance to gather more data and test new parts. First day our test driver Sean Gelael took to the track and completed 78 laps. Here’s what he had to say:

“Today is a day I will never forget—to finally drive a Formula One car is something every driver dreams of, and to do it with Scuderia Toro Rosso makes it even more special. The power and overall grip is amazing…compared to the Formula Two car I drive.”

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

On day two our two regular guys took over—Kvyat drove in the morning and did 61 laps, and Sainz later in the day completed 68 laps.

 

Talking ahead of the Russian Grand Prix, Kvyat said: ”The first thing that comes to my mind is Sebastian, as in Sebastian Vettel. I like to torpedo Sebastian, it’s my hobby. You know I’m joking!” Kvyat also added a picture of himself riding a torpedo to his helmet design this weekend just to continue the joke.

Sainz added: “I’ve learnt a few Russian words thanks to my team mate, Daniil. I think it’s best that I don’t tell you which words he’s taught me…”

On Wednesday it was Daniil’s 23rd birthday and he got to celebrate it in his home country, while learning how to play curling with the Russian national team, which he said he really enjoyed and liked trying new things.

Later that day Kvyat also presented his book, Daniil Kvyat: The Path to Formula One, all about the early stages of his career. As soon as the English version is released I will be purchasing it.

Pavel Sukhorukov / Red Bull Content Pool

Thursday arrived and it was time for the track walk on a sunny afternoon. Sainz posted a video on Twitter talking about the hairstyles of his race engineers while on the walk, and when they returned to the garage it was time for a huge chocolate birthday cake for Kvyat.

Later that day Kvyat joined Bottas and Grosjean at the drivers’ press conference to face the world’s media, before taking to the stage to speak to his home fans. Meanwhile, Sainz was back onto autograph duty.

Friday arrived and it was time for free practice. In FP1 home hero Kvyat finished eleventh and Sainz fourteenth, and in FP2 Sainz was fifteenth and Kvyat seventeenth. Both drivers were disappointed and said the car was lacking a lot of speed.

On Saturday Sainz ended FP3 in ninth with Kvyat thirteenth. With both drivers still unhappy but with little time to make changes we head into qualifying. Our boys ended in eleventh and thirteenth with Sainz coming out on top, but his three-place grid penalty from Bahrain dropped him to fourteenth and moved Kvyat up to twelfth for his home race. Both drivers said they were much happier with their qualifying positions than their Friday pace.

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Sunday meant race day, and with Kvyat starting twelfth and Sainz fourteenth points would be tough but still the aim. As the lights went out Sainz made the better start up to eleventh while Kvyat held onto twelfth place, and in the early laps both boys were looking good.

After the pit stops the race calmed right down and nothing much happened for our boys in the remaining laps: Daniil ended the race where he started in twelfth, but Carlos took a point in tenth. Both drivers struggled with race pace and overtaking was difficult this weekend, but to leave Russia with one point was better than we left Bahrain.

Afterwards, Sainz commented: “What a tough race, especially as we were starting from behind because of the grid penalty… But today we got everything right: the start, the first lap, the pit-stop, the strategy…so we can be happy!”

Kvyat added: “My start today wasn’t the best and I lost a bit of time there. During my pit stop we…got undercut by Stroll and during my second stint I was unfortunately blue-flagged quite a lot and lost some more time having to let the leading cars by.

“On a positive note, the last part of the race in clean air, was fantastic—we were flying and the car felt great!”

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Richard Hindson, F1 Correspondent

Haas F1 Russian Grand Prix Preview

Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain.
Sunday 16 April 2017.
World Copyright: Sam Bloxham/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _W6I2713

Next up for round 4 the Sochi Autodrom, a 5.848-kilometer (3.634-mile), 18-turn circuit. Despite it’s complete lack of camber or elevation change, it reminds me of a nice roller coaster that weaves through the stunning architecture of the Winter Olympics and down the coast of the black sea. It will be interesting to see how the cars go at this circuit it could either be good racing or a repeat of Melbourne. I think there is just enough variation to the track that we are going to see a very good race though. Weather conditions will be good. The circuit varies between what are essentially long straights interrupted by short corners in sector 1 whereas sector 3 is very slow and takes much more life out of the tyres. In this sense it will be important to manage the tyres properly in sector 1 so they’re not dead by sector 3.

However, the tarmac is very smooth here and has what’s called a “low macro roughness” meaning there is a very low degradation for the tyres. In 2014 Rosberg did the entire race minus one lap on one set of White Medium tyres. With that partly in mind Pirelli have gone down one level of softness for tyre options this year and will now offer the Soft, Supersoft, and for the first time Pirelli P Zero Purple Ultrasofts.

The current track record at the Sochi Autodrom is 1:35.417, set last year by Mercedes Nico Rosberg in Q3 but this record will likely be broken in the free practice sessions possibly even the first. A non-Mercedes car has never won at this track either now in it’s 4th year of running, so Haas will be hoping Ferrari power has made an improvement at this circuit. Grosjean’s has qualified P8 in 2015 with a best result of P8 in 2016 while Magnussen’s best qualifying in 2016 started him 11th with a best result of P5 in 2014.

Romain Grosjean

“A lot will depend on the temperature. The tarmac in Bahrain is very rough. It’s very smooth in Russia…I do quite like the fast turn three. It’s a very high-speed corner, flat out, then just going into turn four, coming out of the corner, then braking straight away for turn four. I think the corners flow into each other quite nicely. It’s a good track to drive.”

Kevin Magnussen

The Sochi Autodrom seems to emulate Bahrain in terms of setup. How much of what you learned in Bahrain can be transferred to the Russian Grand Prix?

“I think you learn every weekend more and more about the car. You get a better understanding overall, which is going to help everywhere…I like turns six, seven and eight as they’re high speed.”

UPDATE: Haas to start Russian GP weekend with Carbon Industrie brakes

Carbon Industrie brakes will be used by Haas at the start of the Russian Grand Prix weekend. Carbon Industrie brakes were first tested by Haas in 2016 at Brazil and will again be tested as the team struggles to get the performance out of Brembo brakes which caused frustration during the second half of 2016 for the team.

Because they ran Brembo brakes during winter testing, they were forced to start the season with them due to new Formula 1 rules. However, after positive driver feedback from Bahrain testing of Carbon Industrie brakes Haas has decided to start FP1 in Sochi on them after which they will make their decision for the race.

By Jeremiah Doctson

(Image Courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media)

Russian Grand Prix, Can Mercedes Beat Ferrari?

 

SOCHI (RUSSIA) – 01/05/2016
© FOTO STUDIO COLOMBO PER PIRELLI MEDIA (© COPYRIGHT FREE)

A crucial weekend for the Formula One teams and drivers is coming. The crews are traveling to Sochi for the Russian Grand Prix, the fourth race of the season. Sochi autodrom joined the Formula 1 calendar in 2014 and for the first time, the drivers will be able to use the ultrasoft tyre compounds.

In Bahrain, Sebastian Vettel with his Ferrari took the chequered flag and celebrated the second victory of the season. Lewis Hamilton finished behind the German driver and in Russia, he will have the chance to win for the second time this year if that happens Hamilton will equal Vettel’s points in the championship.

Sochi Autodrom

Laps: 53

Track Length: 5.848 km

Race Distance: 309.745 km

Lap Record: 1:39:094 (Nico Rosberg – 2016)

Tyre Compounds: Ultrasoft (Purple), Supersoft (Red), Soft (Yellow)

The circuit is located in Sochi and was designed by the famous F1 architect Hermann Tilke, circuit’s capacity is 55,000 and it is consists of 12 right and six left corners.

“Sochi is a really nice track to drive and it’s a race I enjoy a lot. In the past it’s a track we have done well at – I finished fourth and fifth in 2014 and 2015 – so I’m hoping we can have another good race there this year. The event has been getting bigger every year so I’m really looking forward to going back again.” Felipe Massa said, who turned 36 the past week.

Track’s formation will give an advantage to Mercedes, as it is not a very demanding circuit for the tyres and the 650 metre straight will allow the silver arrows to reach a speed around to 332 km/h.

“It’s very good to see people talking positively about Formula One. Clearly, the close fight between Ferrari and Mercedes is something that is interesting for the fans. It’s interesting for us too. This is why we go racing – because we’re racers and we thrive on the competition and the battle. It’s a totally different kind of track this weekend in Sochi and, in this season with these new regulations, you can’t take anything for granted. The trophies of previous years don’t guarantee that we’ll be winning in Russia when you have a very fierce competitor like we do in Ferrari. We’ll take it one step at a time, start the weekend well and hopefully have a good result on Sunday.” Toto Wolff added about the upcoming race.

Ferrari proved that they can match Mercedes’ pace and stay close to the silver arrows. It will be interesting to see if Scuderia can win two races in the row which will give them a big advantage in the championship. Whilst Mercedes has to respond to Ferrari’s pace and win the fourth race of the season in order to stay close to the Italians.

Join PitCrew’s live coverage on Sunday, starts 30 minutes before the race.

 

Victor Archakis F1 Editor  – @FP_Passion

(Images Courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media)

Who will win in SilverMonaco?

 

Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain.
Sunday 16 April 2017.
World Copyright: Charles Coates/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _27I8921

Welcome to the fourth round of the season, Sochi, Russia. A circuit that I like to call SilverMonaco, because I see a lot of Silverstone in the first part and a lot of Monaco in the final, in this beautiful racetrack we should see another intriguing battle for victory.

Now we know for sure that Ferrari has closed the gap to Mercedes. Now they are side by side. Only in qualifying the Brackley-based squad has a little advantage still. After the brilliant pole position achieved by Bottas in Bahrain, Lewis Hamilton will be determined to re-establish his dominance of the team. The driver was really surprised by his team mate’s performance but he was happy to find a competitive Sebastian Vettel too. I think even against himself, every driver, including an arrogant Lewis, prefers to fight against another driver to win the title instead of a lone run towards it.

I think there is a regardable difference between the two drivers of Mercedes and Ferrari. I mean that, while at Mercedes Bottas can be at Lewis’ pace in qualifying, for now, at Ferrari we still see a too slow Kimi Raikkonen. I am sincere, I’ve never thought the Finn was a great driver. He’s good if he has a perfect car but he always struggles to find the right set up, he makes many mistakes while driving, sometimes it seems Kimi loves to stay in the shadows. So what I suggest to Ferrari is to change their second driver next year. Constructor championship is important as well.

I think the future is already here and his name is Max Verstappen. Everybody knows he is the most talented driver now, considering his age. And every top team would love to have him on board. Ferrari should think about him. The Dutch driver impressed a lot (again) in China and he is doing a lot more than his Red Bull can allow this year.

Sochi is a high skill level circuit. The walls are really close to the track in some corners. So no mistakes are needed and the drivers will have to preserve their brakes which are the most stressed part of the car here. Danil Kyvat, the local hero, is called to take a little bit of revenge here after his bad start to the season and thinking about the 2015 Grand Prix when he eliminated Vettel by touching him twice.

We hope for a clean race for the Russian and a lucky one for Sebastian, in order to see a spectacular battle with Mercedes. Williams and Red Bull are expected to be finally closest to the top teams but nothing will change in the midfield, I guess. Mclaren Honda should have a new spec engine in Sochi, so we are all curious, and hopeful, to see where they will be on the grid and on the last lap of the race, also hoping that Fernando Alonso will not think too much about other Honda-powered cars!

Massimo Trapanese

(Image Courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media)