The first time we saw Super-G in Sochi was in 2014 when the Russian city hosted the XXII Olympic Winter Games. Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud beat American Andrew Weibrecht by .3 of a second on the 2.096-kilometer (1.302-mile) course with a 622-meter (2,041-foot) vertical drop to nab gold in the alpine slalom event.
Three years later, a Super-G of a different sort returns to Sochi, but instead of taking place on the white slopes of the Rosa Khutor Alpine Resort, it will happen on the black asphalt of the as the fastest cars in Formula One history rocket around the 5.848-kilometer (3.634-mile), 18-turn circuit for the April 30 Russian Grand Prix.
With a new set of technical regulations in place for 2017, Formula One cars feature an advanced aerodynamic package that has created a significantly higher level of downforce and a substantial uptick in g-force. A wider front wing, larger barge boards, a lower and wider rear wing and a diffuser that expands 50 millimeters (two inches) in height and width comprise the changes. And planting these cars to the ground are much wider tires from Pirelli, by 60 millimeters (2.4 inches) in the front and 80 millimeters (3.1 inches) in the rear, a 25-percent increase from 2016.
Between the heightened downforce and the grip afforded by Pirelli’s tires, drivers are able to turn laps nearly five seconds faster than they did last year. Track records have fallen at each of the races run this season in Australia, China and Bahrain. Sochi is home to the fourth race of the 2017 FIA Formula One World Championship and likely the fourth venue where another track record will fall.
The higher speeds of these racecars have led to drastically higher g-forces being sustained by the drivers who wheel these cutting-edge machines. After the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, Haas F1 Team driver Romain Grosjean said he was pulling close to eight Gs when running at speed.
“The cars are brutal to drive – we are not far from 8G with the peak in high corners – so it is pretty good fun, but it is hard on the body, it is hard on parts, it is hard on the cars,” Grosjean said. “You better not miss the turning point on some places. The speed we go through the corners is insane compared to the past. You need to be more precise, more accurate, more on it.”
Eight Gs is eight times the force of gravity, which makes a 68-kilogram (150-pound) Formula One driver weigh 544 kilograms (1,200 pounds). It seems like a big number – and it is – but still well within the body’s tolerance for short durations.
Grosjean and his teammate, Kevin Magnussen, developed their bodies this offseason as much as Haas F1 Team developed its racecar.