McLaren logo2014 Russian Grand Prix – preview


History will be made this weekend 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.

Sochi Autodrom facts & stats
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. 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.

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
2013 winner N/A
2013 pole N/A
Lap record N/A (predicted lap time 1m37s)

First race 2014
What makes it special This is the inaugural Russian Grand Prix and the only new track on the 2014 calendar. It’s taking place at the first purpose-built F1 track in Russia, meaning history will be made on Sunday
Wins from pole position N/A
Track abrasiveness High. The asphalt is smooth but abrasive and it’s still going to be very green and slippery when the on-track action gets underway on Friday
Pirelli tyre choice Soft (Option) / Medium (Prime), a combination that has already been used five times this year (Australia, Bahrain, China, Hungary, Belgium)
2013 winning strategy N/A
Fuel consumption High. Lap simulations suggest that fuel consumption is going to be similar to Singapore, which has a lot of stop-start corners and is hard on fuel consumption
Brake wear Medium. On two occasions the cars will slow from more than 300km/h and the stop-start nature of the track means the brakes are heavily used
Weather Sochi is primarily a summer holiday resort. It enjoys 200 days of sunshine a year and it’s usually still warm at the end of October
DRS zones Two – the first is between turns one and two; the second is between turns 10 and 12
Turbo effect High, due to the number of sharp bursts of acceleration from low speed
Safety Car likelihood Average. It’s a street circuit and the walls are close, so any accident will most likely leave debris on the racetrack that will need clearing
Grid advantage The newly-laid asphalt will rubber-in quickly. With the racing line being on the left, this side of the grid is expected to have more grip come Sunday’s race
Pitlane time TBC

McLaren at the Russian Grand Prix
Wins N/A
Poles N/A
Fastest laps N/A

2014 drivers’ championship
1 Lewis Hamilton 266
2 Nico Rosberg 256
3 Daniel Ricciardo 193
4 Sebastian Vettel 139
5 Fernando Alonso 133
6 Valtteri Bottas 130
7 Jenson Button 82
8 Nico Hulkenberg 76
9 Felipe Massa 71
10 Sergio Perez 46
11 Kimi Raikkonen 45
12 Kevin Magnussen 39
13 Jean-Eric Vergne 21
14 Romain Grosjean 8
15 Daniil Kvyat 8
16 Jules Bianchi 2

Constructors’ Championship
1 Mercedes 522
2 Red Bull Racing 332
3 Williams 201
4 Ferrari 178
5 Force India 122
6 McLaren-Mercedes 121
7 Toro Rosso 29
8 Lotus 8
9 Marussia 2

Jenson Button
Age 34 (January 19 1980)
GPs 262
Wins 15
Poles 8
FLs 8

“It’s always interesting to visit new circuits – it’s fun to get out and explore the contours of the track, the kerbs, the run-offs, the camber – all the things that you don’t really fully experience until you’re on-site and able to see the track for the very first time. That’ll be my priority on Thursday.

“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.”

Kevin Magnussen
Age 21 (October 05 1992)
GPs 15
Wins 0
Poles 0
FLs 0

“The layout sort of looks a little bit like Abu Dhabi – it has the curving straights into very precise, tight corners, which will really require a lot from the car because it’ll be trying to snap away mid-turn. Like Yas Marina, it looks pretty flat, too.

“It’s hard to see a key place for overtaking – there are no particularly big stops or opportunities where you can really place your car up the inside. Turn 11, which is the right-hander at the end of the back straight, might be a good possibility. Turn 13 could be an option, too.

“A new track is always an interesting test. As a rookie, I’m looking forward to the opportunity to compare myself to the other drivers on more of an equal footing. It should be an interesting weekend.”

Eric Boullier
Racing director, McLaren Mercedes
“The arrival of the Russian Grand Prix marks a significant moment in Formula 1’s ongoing expansion into new global territories. While that’s significant for the sport, it’s equally important that the event proves able to deliver sporting spectacle and excitement for the fans.

“In terms of facilities, the circuit looks first-class: the track threads its way around some of the architectural landmarks that were erected for this year’s Winter Olympics. It also feels a little bit like a street circuit – it features a plentiful array of 90-degree corners, many of which look likely to be taken at around the same speed.

“It’ll be interesting to measure the popularity of the race; McLaren has long participated at the Mobil 1-backed Moscow City Racing summer festival, which regularly sees huge crowds, and it would be nice if Sochi could replicate the appeal of that event.

“I hope it’s a successful weekend – for the sport and for McLaren.”