Williams Martini Racing: Russian Grand Prix Preview
After a successful debut on the Formula One calendar in 2014, the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi returns this year to host the fourth round of the Championship.
The Sochi Autodrom is one of the longest in Formula One and circumnavigates the 2014 Winter Olympic venues as well as sharing just over 1km with public roads. Designed by Herman Tilke, the circuit boasts some of his signature designs such as long straights and sweeping hairpins. It’s third time lucky for Sochi, as the drivers will head back to the track with a greater understanding of the circuit. The fans will be expecting another exciting race following a memorable first outing in 2014 that saw Valtteri Bottas claim a third place podium finish, and a fourth place for Felipe in 2015.
For Sochi, Pirelli have made available the supersoft (for use in Q3), soft and medium compound tires for dry-weather running. The intermediate and wet tires are also available. Pirelli have allocated three sets of tyres to each driver, but each driver can now choose their remaining ten sets from the available compounds. In Russia, Williams has chosen to allocate each driver with the same sets of tires. Felipe and Valtteri will have one set of medium tires, three sets of soft tires, and nine sets of supersoft tires available this weekend.
The Sochi Autodrom circuit is very wide with nice low kerbs which allow the drivers to attack the corners. It’s a reasonably high speed circuit with a lot of time spent at full throttle which also means fuel usage is quite high. In the past, harder tyres have been quite competitive, whereas the supersoft tyres we see in qualifying might be quite difficult to get good performance out of at the end of the lap from turns 13 to 18. Last year it was an easy one-stop race but having the supersoft tyres in use this year - which some cars will be required to start on depending on qualifying position - may mean that a one-stop strategy may not be the best way to achieve the maximum result. This is a circuit where we have been competitive in the past, and whilst the first three races have not yielded as many points as we would have liked, we hope Russia will see an improved result for us.
Sochi is a nice track to drive. It’s a mix between a city circuit and a normal circuit. It’s a race I enjoy and one we have traditionally done well at. I don’t know Russia very much, as we stay in a small town and spend most of our time at the hotel or the track. I like racing there and I hope the event gets bigger every year. From what I know of the track, I’m hopeful it will suit this year’s car, but it’s too early to say for sure.
Russia is my neighboring country, being Finnish. Sochi is a very technical track and I find it really interesting to drive. I’ve always had pretty good results there. Last year it didn’t end up the way I wanted, but normally I’m pretty quick and we are competitive there as a team. One challenge in Sochi is that the asphalt is quite smooth, so in qualifying it’s not easy to get the tires to work quickly enough for the timed lap. That has been a challenge in previous years, but hopefully we have fixed it and I’m sure we’re going to have a good weekend in Russia.