Russian Grand Prix: Race Notes

The brand new Formula One track in Sochi, Russia, is set to host it’s first Grand Prix this Sunday with Lewis Hamilton leading the field when the lights go out.

          Race: 7 a.m. EDT

Key Stats:

Circuit name – Sochi Autodrom

Number of laps – 53

Lap distance – 3.63 miles

2014 pole position – Lewis Hamilton

The Track:

The circuit is brand new for 2014, so the only rubber on the track is from cars running this weekend.  Overall, the Mercedes duo have been looking fast at Sochi, locking out the front row in qualifying by two tenths of a second.  Valtteri Bottas put his Williams into P3 followed by Jenson Button and the Russian Danil Kvyat in P4 and P5, respectively.  The drivers have been impressed with the track conditions this weekend.  Lewis Hamilton talked about the track after qualifying on Saturday:

“The track surface is great, it’s very smooth but it has a lot of grip. The kerbs are just done really nicely and obviously the surroundings, you know when I landed here seeing the mountains – and also being around where they put the Olympics on, it’s quite an incredible place.”

Nico Rosberg also talked about the tire degradation at the circuit, or lack their of, after qualifying second:

It’s very unique here because there is hardly any tyre degradation. The track is so smooth on the tyres or I don’t know what. It’s completely different to everything else we’ve seen this year and that makes it very unique. It’s been a big challenge set-up wise and everything to get to grips with the track this weekend.”

Getting to grips with the track conditions didn’t seem to be a big hurdle for the teams this weekend in terms of times, though.  The Mercedes guys showed real pace throughout the entire weekend but could be challenged by Williams’ Bottas on Sunday. 

The Race:
Mercedes F1 have locked out the front row for yet another Grand Prix this year, and Lewis Hamilton has claimed pole position in a quest to improve on his three race win streak that started in Monza.  A win here could really help him build a gap to his second place teammate Nico Rosberg; the current gap is ten points.  Rosberg commented on the importance of this race to his championship hopes:  

“Every race is important at the moment. We have four to go. They are all just as important. Yeah, today Lewis was quicker – all weekend really. So I’ve been working hard to try to get close but didn’t manage to get closer than those two tenths now but that’s the way it is. I need to accept that.”

Sauber driver Adrian Sutil turns laps at the Sochi Autodrom in Sochi, Russia on Saturday.

There are 125 points left up for grabs for any one driver with double points in Abu Dhabi this year.  This leaves only Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, and Daniel Ricciardo mathematically left to win the 2014 Driver’s Championship.  Ricciardo qualified in P7 ahead of his teammate Sebastien Vettel, and he will need a good result tomorrow to stay in the championship fight.  A poor result could send him spiraling to the edge of contention with only three races to go after Sochi:

“It’s tough to get a lap together around here, for a new track it’s really high in grip but at the same time it’s hard to read the grip; it’s not such a natural feeling that it gives us behind the wheel, but it’s fun and a new challenge. We were trying to get the fronts in and get grip out of them and on the last lap I lost the rear. We’re better off than we were yesterday, but I was hoping for more than seventh.”

What to Expect:
It should be an all out fight between Mercedes as both of the drivers look to retain or reattain the championship lead.  Bottas could prove to be a difficult competitor for them as well, he was just two tenths off the pace in qualifying.  

Your Turn:
Who do you think will come away with the inaugural Sochi Grand Prix victory?  Let us know your thoughts and predictions in the comments below.

Image © Force India and Getty

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