From Russia with love. Or alternatively, from Russia with twenty fast F1 cars, tearing around a circuit built into the former winter Olympics venue at Sochi. This will be the fourth time the Russian Grand Prix has been held here, following from a pretty average race in 2014, and with only moderately more exciting races in 2015 and 2016. Last year’s race marked the moving of the event from near the end of the season to near the start, as logistically it proved easier to manage.
2016’s race was significant in that it more or less ended Danill Kvyat’s immediate hopes of being a front-runner. He twice crashed into Sebastian Vettel on the opening lap, which led to Red Bull demoting him from the senior team and back to Toro Rosso, and promoting Max Verstappen. The rest is, as they say, history.
In the context of 2017, Formula 1 returns to Russia with Ferrari man Sebastian Vettel leading the championship by seven points from Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton. After three races, Vettel has won two of them, and the exciting thing about the season so far is that either Vettel or Hamilton could have won any of those races. The Ferraris are quick once again, so both strategy and pure racing skill are playing their part in what could be an absorbing championship battle. Russia is likely to continue that battle, though raw engine power may not be quite so much of a factor here.
The key area is the run from the start/finish line to turn 2. This is the first tight corner and it starts a sequence of repeated acceleration and braking that doesn’t really allow for the cars to sprint. With several sharp corners, this track will favour aerodynamic developments more than the previous rounds, so Red Bull could be closer to the front here. The smart money will still be on either a Ferrari or Mercedes victory, but interference from Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo will add another layer of intrigue into proceedings.
I look forward to it!