Russian Grand Prix Preview: Sochi, October 8-11
The P Zero Yellow soft and P Zero Red supersoft tires have been nominated for the Russian Grand Prix: a step softer than the inaugural race last year, when the medium and soft tires were nominated.
With no prior race data to go on in 2014, a deliberately conservative choice was made, but with real race information now available, a nomination more precisely suited to the exact characteristics of the track has been made.The new asphalt surface is smooth, and together with mild weather and mostly medium-speed corners, this leads to generally low tire wear and degradation.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director: “We’re very pleased to be coming back to Russia for the second Russian Grand Prix: a market that is crucial not only to ourselves but also every automotive manufacturer. There were a number of question marks that we faced coming to the Sochi circuit for the first time last year – as is inevitably the case with any new circuit – but we have since been able to collect extra data that means we have more information for 2015. As a result, we have gone a step softer with the tire nomination this year to help us get back into the two to three pit stop window, which is what we desire for every race. The track has quite a wide variety of different corners, so it makes for a good all-round test for the tires, with the drivers able to benefit from the extra speed of the supersoft this year.”
The biggest challenges for the tires:
Freshly laid asphalt often undergoes quite a radical change in its first year, particularly after going through a harsh winter season. However, track samples indicate that there has not been a major change in the characteristics of the Sochi asphalt from 2014 to 2015, with the surface remaining smooth and non-abrasive. With the circuit not being used extensively outside Formula One, a high degree of track evolution is expected, with a ‘green’ and slippery surface on Friday in particular.
The most critical corner at Sochi is Turn 3 a long multi-apex left-hander that was inspired by the famous Turn 8 at Istanbul Park (which was also designed by Hermann Tilke). This stresses the front-right tire in particular. In total there are 12 right and six left-hand corners, with a 650-meter straight between the first and second turns.
The 5.848-kilometer track will be the third longest of the year, behind Spa and Silverstone. Around 1.7 of those kilometers are run on public roads, and the race will run for 53 laps. Ambient temperatures of 15 to 20 degrees centigrade are expected, limiting the effects of thermal degradation.
Expected performance gap between the two compounds: 0.8 – 1.0 seconds per lap.
Last year’s strategy and how the race was won: Lewis Hamilton won for Mercedes, starting on the soft tire and switching to the medium on lap 30. The most remarkable strategy was used by his team mate Nico Rosberg, who switched from soft to medium on the opening lap after seriously flat-spotting his tires. He emerged in 20th place but went on to finish second, completing more than 300 kilometres on one set of tires and setting his personal best time on the penultimate lap.