LOOKING AHEAD TO RUSSIA

Our official race previews are your guide for every lap of every race in 2017.
Hear from the team, drivers and management as we prepare for round four of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship at the Sochi Autodrom.
Follow McLaren TEAMStream for all the build-up to the Russian Grand Prix.

LOWDOWN

Race title Formula One VTB Russian Grand Prix
Circuit name Sochi Autodrom
First race 2014
Previous winners
2016 Nico Rosberg, 53 laps, 1:32:41.997s
2015 Lewis Hamilton
2014 Lewis Hamilton
History lesson The inaugural Russian Grand Prix took place eight months after the closing ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. The 5.848km/3.634-mile street track passes alongside the Olympic Village, making it the third circuit on this year’s calendar to incorporate a former Olympic venue, along with the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve (Montreal ’76) and the Circuit de Catalunya (Barcelona ’92)

TRAVEL

City Sochi
Time zone BST+2
Population 450,000
How far? Sochi is 1,940 miles from the McLaren Technology Centre
Getting there There are no direct flights from the UK to Sochi. The team’s pre set-up crew, who need to be in situ 10 days before the race, fly to the circuit via Moscow; the rest of the team uses a direct F1 charter flight, from London Luton to Sochi
Surprising fact Sochi attracts four million tourists a year, but only three per cent are foreign. Many Muscovites head to Sochi – known as the Russian Riviera – in the summer
Weather Sochi has a similar latitude to Monaco and, as a result, it gets more than 200 days of sunshine a year. The average daily temperature in April is 16.8 degrees

TRACK

Track length 5.848km/3.634 miles (3rd longest track of the year – longest: Spa-Francorchamps, shortest: Monaco)
2016 pole position Nico Rosberg 1m35.417s
2016 fastest lap Nico Rosberg 1m39.094s (lap 52)
Lap record 1:39.094s (Nico Rosberg, 2016)
Tyre choice Purple Ultrasoft, red Supersoft and yellow Soft – a combination that was last used at the Australian Grand Prix
Distance to Turn One 450m/0.280 miles (longest of season: Barcelona, 730m/0.454 miles)
Longest straight 650m/0.404 miles (longest of the season: China, 1.17km/0.727 miles)
Top speed 345km/h/214mph, on the approach to Turn Two (fastest of season: Monza, 350km/h/217mph)
Full throttle 60 per cent (highest of the season: Monza, 75 per cent)
Brakewear Medium. There are only two significant braking events, into Turns Two and 13. The rest of the lap is relatively undemanding on brakes
Fuel consumption 1.9kg per lap, which is high
ERS demands Low
Gear changes 40 per lap/2120 per race

RACE

Laps 53 laps
Start time 15:00hrs local / 13:00hrs BST / 14:00hrs CET
Grid advantage Pole position is located on the left side of the track, on the racing line. There is more grip available on this section of track, but a fast-starting car on the inside can use the flat-out right-hander at Turn One to muscle ahead before the braking point for Turn Two
DRS There are two DRS zones, on the approaches to turns Two and 13. The activation point for the first DRS zone is on the apex of Turn One; the second DRS zone winds its way right-handed through turns 11 and 12. Both zones offer good overtaking opportunities
Don’t put the kettle on… in the middle of the race, when the cars are expected to make their one and only pitstop. If you can’t wait until then, the start is usually quite lively. It’s a long run to the braking point of Turn Two, meaning there’s a lot of speed to scrub off when the cars are in close proximity
Pitlane length/Pitstops 330m/0.205 miles (longest of the season: Silverstone, 457m/0.283 miles). Estimated time loss for a pitstop is 21s, which is relatively short
Safety Car likelihood 66 per cent, which is high. There have been Safety Car periods in two of the three Russian Grands Prix to date, largely caused by the lack of run-off around the lap. When there’s an accident, there’s usually a Safety Car or Virtual Safety Car period, while the debris gets cleared away
Watch out for… Turn Three. This 180-degree left-hander will be flat-out in qualifying and the race this year, giving the drivers more lines and overtaking opportunities. Expect to see cars running two-a-breast through here as drivers seek the inside line for Turn Four

THE DRIVERS

FERNANDO ALONSO
#FA14 MCL32-03

“Sochi Autodrom is an interesting circuit – a mixture of challenges, and ones which I think will be tackled quite differently this year with the new regulations for 2017. For example, Turn Three last year used to be tricky and you needed to be very precise – it’s a multi-apex left-hander which means good car balance and control are important to not get out of shape mid-corner. This year, though, it will likely be taken flat, so I’m looking forward to seeing how the feeling in the car has changed around this circuit.
“There are two long, slightly-curved straights and high-speed corners, which means this circuit will be challenging for us with the package we have, but our car is also very well-balanced, so I hope we can get the most out of the many 90-degree corners that make this circuit so unique. Although it’s technically a city circuit, it’s pretty fast overall and the track itself is wide, so it usually provides close racing and good overtaking opportunities.
“A positive result for us in Sochi will be to finish the race with both cars, first of all, as we’ve suffered a few reliability issues over the past couple of weekends. I followed the test in Bahrain and I’m pleased that we were able to secure a lot of valuable data from both the car and the power unit, and I know everyone at McLaren-Honda is working hard to put that to good use to aid our progress as quickly as possible. The season is long, but there isn’t much time between races – especially fly-aways – for development, so the laps we managed on the final day of the test were a big positive for us and hopefully will be beneficial to us over the next few races.”

STOFFEL VANDOORNE
#SV2 MCL32-01

“I’ve raced in Sochi before and had good results there – it’s where I clinched the GP2 championship in 2015 – so that’s definitely a plus point for me going into the weekend. We’ve not been so lucky recently on my side of the garage and I’ve missed quite a lot of valuable mileage, but I hope we can improve that situation this weekend.
“After a difficult couple of weeks, the last day of the Bahrain test was very encouraging, both for me and for the whole team. It was a boost we needed and provided us with a lot of useful information about the direction we are taking the whole package in, so we go to Sochi with a better feeling than we had on Sunday night after a disappointing race.
“As I’ve said before, on tracks like this where straight-line speed is important, we know we’ll already be slightly on the back-foot heading into the weekend. Our focus should definitely be on maximising our track time and working on reliability. If we can have a clean weekend from that point of view and no issues with the car, it will give us the best chance to find performance for the race, and we’ll give it our best shot with the package we have.”

THE MANAGEMENT

ERIC BOULLIER

McLAREN-HONDA RACING DIRECTOR

“The past few races for us have been more unpredictable than we had hoped or imagined. We haven’t yet managed to put together a trouble-free weekend on either side of the garage, which is the first step in order to be able to work on performance. Honda are working hard to find solutions to the MGU-H issue we have been suffering with, and on the McLaren side it’s important we make sure all of our operational processes and procedures are bulletproof all the way down the line, so that we can at least see the chequered flag with both cars.
“Following the test, we’re working hard on bringing more new parts to Sochi, and chassis-wise we are confident in the development path we are taking and constantly working to find extra performance wherever we can. Both drivers report positively on the feeling inside the car, so it’s important we continue to build on this as the season progresses.
“As we head to the Sochi Autodrom for the fourth time, we need to focus primarily on pulling together a smooth weekend in every session, which is the only way we’ll be able to see a representative performance from both drivers in the MCL32 on track. The Russian Grand Prix has so far shown itself to be a closely-fought race, and I hope we’ll have the opportunity to be in the mix.”

YUSUKE HASEGAWA

HONDA R&D CO. LTD HEAD OF F1 PROJECT & EXECUTIVE CHIEF ENGINEER

“After a disappointing grand prix weekend in Bahrain, we have since had an extremely busy few days during in-season testing, also at the Bahrain International Circuit. The team has been working hard to implement some countermeasures to help combat our MGU-H issues.
“By the second day of testing, we think we were able to confirm the direction of our solution against the issue after completing 81 laps with Stoffel behind the wheel. The results are testament to the team’s hard work and determination.
“The 2016 Russian Grand Prix saw McLaren-Honda finish the race with two cars in the points, so of course we will do our best to try and replicate this. That said, I expected the Russian Grand Prix will be another challenging race weekend for us.
“The nature of the track, with its long straights combined with 90-degree corners, means the race will be stop-start, putting emphasis on the balance of energy management. Unlocking power and managing fuel will also be key. We will of course work hard with McLaren during the practice sessions in order to find the best set-up, and we are hoping to show a good performance.”