F1 2014 Russian Grand Prix: Hamilton looking for Sochi success
PUBLISHED: 20:29 09 October 2014 | UPDATED: 20:34 09 October 2014
Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton heads into the 2014 Russian Grand Prix weekend looking to make it four race wins in a row.
Sochi Autodrom – the stats you need
* Race distance: 53 laps (310.209km/192.764 miles)
* Start time: 15:00 (local)/11:00 (GMT)
* Circuit length: 5.853km/3.637 miles
* Lap record: N/A (predicted lap time 1m37s)
* First race: 2014
History will be made on Sunday when the inaugural Russian Grand Prix takes place at the Sochi Autodrom.
The 5.853km/3.637-mile track is located in the heart of the Black Sea resort and it weaves its way around the infrastructure originally installed for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Hamilton heads into Round 16 of the 2014 Formula One World Championship 10 points clear of Mercedes AMG Petronas team-mate Nico Rosberg, after winning last weekend’s race in Japan.
However, there were mixed emotions for the 29-year-old F1 driver from Hertfordshire after Jules Bianchi’s horrific crash at a rain-lashed Suzuka circuit.
Hamilton said: “It’s difficult to know what to say after a weekend like the one in Japan.
“As I crossed the line, obviously I was pleased to have finally won at Suzuka – but as soon as we got back to the pits and heard what happened to Jules it suddenly didn’t seem relevant anymore.
“My thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.”
Looking towards Sunday’s first F1 race in Russia, Hamilton said: “I like a challenge and a new circuit always provides that.
2014 World Constructors’ Championship
After Round 15:
1 Mercedes 522
2 Red Bull 332
3 Williams 201
4 Ferrari 178
5 Force India 122
6 McLaren 121
“Of course, we’ve run through plenty of laps on the simulator – but you never really know what it will be like until you get out there and feel your way into the track.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what it’s really like and how our car performs there.
“It felt great in the race in Japan and I’m sure it will be strong again in Sochi, so I’m hoping to keep up this run of results that we’ve built in the last few races.”
Hamilton’s Silver Arrows colleague Rosberg is also looking forward to the sport’s first grand prix in Russia.
2014 FIA World Drivers’ Championship
Classification after Round 15:
1 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 266 points
2 Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 256
3 Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) 193
4 Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 139
5 Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 133
6 Valtteri Bottas (Williams) 130
7 Jenson Button (McLaren) 82
8 Nico Hulkenberg (Force India) 76
9 Felipe Massaa (Williams) 71
10 Sergio Perez (Force India) 46
He said: “It’s a new circuit, so we’ve spent a lot of time in the simulator practising it to learn all the lines and the gears as best we can.”
Despite plans for a Russian Grand Prix being mooted as far back as 1983, the Sochi Autodrom is the first purpose-built Formula 1 facility in the country.
The track was given the green light in October 2010. Since then, acclaimed architect Hermann Tilke has designed and built a challenging 18-corner layout that is the third longest track on the 2014 calendar.
Construction of the circuit began in 2011, but the finishing touches could only be applied after the closing ceremony of the 22nd Winter Olympics in February 2014.
The final layer of asphalt was laid just 70 days ahead of the race, and the circuit was officially opened at the end of September.
The track is ostensibly a street circuit, but it has an interesting mix of permanent and temporary sections.
The infrastructure around the paddock and pitlane is permanent, having originally been erected for the Winter Olympics, but the track itself is temporary.
It’s lined by walls, it has little run-off and it will punish driving mistakes.
However, the presence of two straights – the longest of which is 650 metres – pushes speeds higher than many permanent circuits on the calendar.
Hamilton’s former team-mate, McLaren driver Jenson Button, said: “From what I’ve seen of the place, it’s sort of a mix between the tracks we raced on in Valencia and Korea – plenty of long, fast straights hemmed in by concrete walls and high barriers, and a selection of medium-speed corners that seem to have been designed to test the abilities of a car.
“As with all these new venues, they only really begin to unlock themselves once you get out on the track for the first time.
“I’ve lost none of my enthusiasm for going to new places, so I’ll be keen to get out there on Friday morning and get a feel for the place.”
Simulations carried out by McLaren predict an average speed of 215km/h, placing the track on a par with Albert Park in Melbourne, and making it quicker than Monaco, Montreal and Singapore.
The 18-corner layout contains several of Tilke’s signature design features.
The two longest straights are book-ended by slow corners in an effort to help overtaking, and there’s a multi-apex left-hander towards the start of the lap that is reminiscent of Turn Eight in Istanbul – albeit with a much slower entry speed.
The asphalt is quite abrasive because it contains a special polymer that gives the surface extra grip, but such is the predominance of slow corners around the lap that Pirelli are able to take relatively soft compounds to the race.
The combination of Soft (Option) and Medium (Prime) tyre compounds was last used at the Belgian Grand Prix, and will provide the drivers with plenty of mechanical grip.
Of the Russian venue, Toto Wolff, the head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, said: “The new circuit in Sochi looks impressive and, if we think back to the Winter Olympics, I am sure we will see an event the country can be proud of, with many new fans turning out to see our sport’s debut race in Russia.”
Paddy Lowe, Mercedes’ technical director, added: “Coming to a new circuit such as Sochi provides an interesting challenge for every team.
“Although we conduct extensive work in the simulator to prepare as best we can, the weekend will undoubtedly be a steep learning curve for everyone involved.
“Track evolution will be a big factor, as demonstrated most recently at another brand new venue in Austin two seasons ago. This is part of the challenge of Formula One – and one we all relish.”