By James Malleson
- The fourth race of the season to be held in Russia
- Lewis Hamilton looking to bounce back
SOCHI, RUSSIA – Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel look to commence battle again, as the fourth race of the season starts.
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Hamilton’s Past Record
The first Russin Grand Prix was held in 1913, in St Petersburg – Lewis Hamilton obviously did not feature but he has been the main man since its reinstatement in 2014.
Hamilton has won twice in the city of Sochi, which is now the host of the Russian Grand Prix. The first win came in 2014 where he started the race in pole position. The race started with Nico Rosberg racing wheel to wheel but the German locked up whilst braking, leaving Hamilton to cruise ahead. The Brit was able to stay ahead of his nearest rival Valtteri Bottas and built a solid lead by the first round of pit stops. By the time the race had finished, Hamilton had won by a margin of thirteen seconds.
His next Russian win came in 2015 which immediately followed the previous year’s win. Hamilton started the race from the second position this time. Rosberg (who started in pole position) started well and lead ahead of the Brit. Unfortunately for Rosberg, he was forced to retire on lap seven due to a locked throttle. This factor meant Hamilton was given the lead. The next threat to the three-time world champion, came from Sebastian Vettel who ran close behind, much later in the race. Yet Hamilton was able to defend well, eventually crossing the line in first place.
Last year Hamilton did not fare as well but still picked up a deserved second place finish. He will be hoping to add to his collection of winners trophies come Sunday.
How Has Sebastian Vettel Fared?
The answer is: not very well or certainly not as well as rival, Hamilton, by any stretch. In the three times, he has featured, his highest finish was second place in 2015 and that is coupled with an eighth place and a retirement.
Last year Vettel started in the third position after a decent qualifying session. That is where the decency ended as a frantic started ensued, only for the German to collide with Daniil Kvyat, causing him to hit the barriers on Turn 3. This frenetic start cost him, and he was forced to retire.
Vettel had better luck in 2015. Vettel started the race well and by lap 17 he was attacking team-mate Kimi Raikkonen for third place. Shortly after the Finn ran wide coming into Turn 2 giving up the place to Vettel. After various pit stops held by the front-runners, the German was able to come out in second place. Here he stayed for the rest of the race and ran Hamilton close towards the end. Alas, he could not catch Hamilton who had enough pace, leaving the four-time champion with second place.
Expect Vettel to improve on his record in Russia, especially given his record this season.
How Will the Environmental Conditions Affect the Race?
Known as the summer capital of Russia, with the Black Sea setting the stunning scenery to a city claiming the sun for 200 days a year. Temperatures look to be perfect for driving with no rain forecast and a gentle beam of sunshine it may reach around 20 degrees Celsius.
This is coupled with a minimal degradation track compared to most other circuits. So what do these factors lead to? It is likely to expect that medium, soft and supersoft tyres will be used here as the track has good grip conditions and as there will be no rain these tyre choices are a good match.
Drivers should feel at ease with the track and conditions as the race day draws ever closer.
A Technical Circuit with High Speeds Possible
With its boundaries between street and purpose-built circuits, it is a track not to be sniffed at.
However, it does possess low curves and there are places to drive quickly in the hope of overtaking and if the technicality of the course is managed well, then top speeds of 350kph can be reached.
It also contains two DRS zones in total which are perfect places to overtake and gain some needed speed. The first one features as the drivers approach Turn 2, but it is not a long stretch of track compared with other circuit’s DRS zones. The next one appears as you leave Turn 10 and is a slightly longer stint where drag can be reduced and overtakes made.
So a technical track but if dealt with in the right manner, drivers can build up good momentum in order to overtake.
From Russia, With Love
Or should it be ‘with caution’? As great care will need to be taken in order to navigate the Sochi track which surges through the former Winter Olympic park.
The track contains a number of sharp corners so drivers will need to take this into account when driving this course. The cornering this track possesses means that braking at the right time will be critical.
Turn 2 will be the first tricky corner as the drivers start the race, so awareness of other cars will be needed to avoid a collision. Turns 4, 5, 7 and 8 could also cause some problems, but could also provide a means to allow overtaking but this very much depends on how good the timing is.
All in all, this is a stern test and the Russian track is not one to be flirting with.
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