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F1: 5 Things to watch out in the Russian Grand Prix 2018

Benhur J
CONTRIBUTOR
Feature
461   //    26 Sep 2018, 01:55 IST

Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton squabble for track position
Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton squabble for track position

Tire Conundrums

Although Mercedes is the most successful team at Sochi, Russia, winning all the four races until now, the 2017 race was not a smooth-sailing. Mercedes struggled to get their tires warmed up during free practice and qualifiers. They had to run one additional lap to get their tires warmed up, unlike other teams. Should see, if Mercedes had found a solution to it.

With the temperature expected to dip in the later part of the race, getting the tires warmed up is critical on their out laps after pit stops to avoid getting undercut by other drivers.

This year, with pink hypersoft thrown in, tyre strategy will be key again. Traditionally, Sochi is kind on tires. Will teams extend the first stint on hypersoft up to lap 20+ and go for ultra softs, or go aggressively with hypersoft for first 10+ laps, and bolt in soft until chequered flag?

Will Red Bull break their podium jinx Russia?

Red Bull Racing Team has never secured a podium place at Sochi. Although the circuit at Sochi has characteristics of a street circuit (Red Bull’s forte) it has just16 corners for a 5.848 km (third longest) race track, and 60 percent of the lap is taken on full throttle. This means still cars need the extra horsepower boost from the engine package to excel.

Expect Red Bull to use lesser rear wings, as they did at Spa and Monza
Expect Red Bull to use lesser rear wings, as they did at Spa and Monza

With Red Bull likely to revert to “B Spec” engine this weekend, from “C Spec” engine, the podium place may continue to elude the Milton Keynes-based team. Also, expect Red Bull to opt for the lesser rear wing to improve their straight-line speed. 

The Starts

The long-run from the start, all the way up to turn two, the first real corner on the track, has provided lots of action when the lights went off. In the four races held so far, we witnessed plenty of aggressive overtaking moves, few successful and few race-ending.

With the first braking point over 600 meters away, chasing cars benefit from the slipstream, in some cases double tow. However, the drivers need to sure about their braking points; else with cold tires, we may see few tangles like the one we saw with Kvyat when he ploughed into Sebastian Vettel.

Kvyat colliding with Sebastian Vettel on the run down to turn 2 (2016)
Kvyat colliding with Sebastian Vettel on the run down to turn 2 (2016)
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On track action

The Hermann Tilke-designed Sochi Autodrom hasn’t been famous among drivers or fans because of the lack of overtaking opportunities. This has forced drivers to make moves that did not really exist – like the one we saw in the last lap of 2015 when Kimi made a late lunge at Bottas for inside line at turn 4.

Compatriots collide in last lap (2015)
Compatriots collide in last lap (2015)

Who is the Favourite?

Although statistically, Mercedes may start as favourites, one noticeable trend this season thus far is, Ferrari’s strong showings in tracks (like Canada, Spa), where Mercedes has been strong in the hybrid era, and the Maranello-based team may just get this one too, which is better from the championship point of view for all of us

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