After starting the 2016 season with races in Australia, Bahrain and China, Formula 1 returns to Europe with third edition of Russian Grand Prix at Sochi Autodrom. Reigning World champion Lewis Hamilton who won the first two races at this circuit needs to get back on winning ways quickly because his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg has opened the 2016 season with three straight wins. In addition, Ferrari and Red Bull proved to be dangerous and will use any errors made by the Silver Arrows.
After the mess at Chinese Grand Prix where he was given a five-place penalty for changing gearbox, and a power unit failure in qualifications which forced him to start from the back row, Hamilton worked with the engineers and his Mercedes team at their base in Brackley past week to make sure problems don’t repeat in Russia.
Nico Rosberg leads in Drivers’ championship with maximum 75 points ahead of Hamilton who has 39. Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo is on surprising third place with 36 points, considering troubles Red Bull had in the off-season, ahead of Ferrari’s duo Sebastian Vettel with 33 and Kimi Raikkonen with 28.
In the Constructors’ championship, Mercedes already built fine lead with 119 points ahead of Ferrari and Red Bull who are battling for second place with 61 and 57 points. Debutants, Team Haas collected respectful 18 points and hold the fifth place after three races.
The part of Sochi Autodrom is going through the Olympic park that hosted the 2014 Winter Games and has a section that is running on public roads so it can be labeled part street-race. With the length of 5.84 kilometers, it is the third longest circuit on the Formula 1 calendar, behind Spa in Belgium and Silverstone in Great Britain. The track has 18 turns and very smooth surface, which means that tyre degradation and usage won’t have much impact on final results. With surface like that, many teams will opt for longer stints on supersoft tyres. Along them, Pirelli made soft and medium compounds available also.
Sochi is located on the Black Sea coast and it has medium, subtropical, sunny weather. Both previous races were driven in dry weather. Forecast for this weekend however, predicts cloudy weather with temperatures around 18 degrees Celsius and with a possibility of light rain for qualifications and race day. The race starts on Sunday at 14:00 central European time.