2016 Russian Grand Prix Practice Review

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Nico Rosberg wins the Chinese Grand Prix ahead of Sebastian Vettel in second place and Daniil Kvyat in third place. Williams and Toro Rosso managed to score points from the race.

We will also see local GP2 driver Sergery Sirotkin making an appearance in FP1 for the Renault team and building upon the experience he gained with Sauber when he last appeared in F1 in 2014.

The Sochi Autodrom circuit (which was formerly known as Sochi International Street Circuit and Sochi Olympic Park Circuit) is a part of a venue used for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. The Olympic Park and the racing circuit is located in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, Krasnodar Krai, Russia ner the southern border.

The surface was not laid until after the closing ceremony of the Olympics. Hermann Tilke designed the track and the first Russian GP was given the green light by the FIA after the first official inspection in August 2014.

The circuit is partly integrated in the public road network and consists of two circuits. The long circuit is to be used only for Formula 1, the short circuit is supposed to function throughout the year to host multiple motorsport events. The large lap, including 1.7 kilometers of public roads, is 5.85 kilometers long and feature 19 corners, 12 right-handers and 7 left-handers.

The track width varies from 13 to 15 meters and the direction is clockwise. The track’s combination of straights and really fast corners makes it to one of the fastest Formula One tracks. The top speed is about 320 km/h.

Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone signed a deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin in October 2010 for Sochi to host the Russian Grand Prix from 2014 to 2020. The Russian government spent about 200 million dollars to build the circuit that hosted the country’s first ever Formula 1 grand prix.

It fulfilled a long-held ambition of Putin’s for Russia to be part of the multi-million dollar Grand Prix circuit, former attempts to stage a race at Moscow and St Petersburg having failed.

Practices 1, 2 and 3

The main headline from the Practice sessions is that Mercedes and Ferrari look to have the driver-car package to beat this weekend as weather conditions and tyre management which will test the drivers, teams and the cars throughout Friday and Saturday practice sessions.

Nico Rosberg tops the timesheets in FP1.

Nico Rosberg tops the timesheets in FP1.

Practice 1 saw Nico Rosberg tops the timesheet with a time of 1.38.127 followed closely by Lewis Hamilton with a gap of 0.722 seconds behind, Sebastian Vettel was in third with a gap of 1.048 seconds behind, Kimi Raikkonen in fourth with a gap of 1.205 seconds behind and Felipe Massa in fifth with a gap of 1.238 seconds behind Rosberg.

Daniel Ricciardo is sixth with a gap of 1.523 seconds behind, Valtteri Bottas is seventh with a gap of 1.675 seconds behind, Daniil Kvyat is eighth with a gap of 2.091 seconds behind, Sergio Perez is ninth with a gap of 2.160 seconds behind and Carlos Sainz Jr is tenth with a gap of 2.527 seconds behind Rosberg.

Daniel Ricciardo trialling the Red Bull racing cockpit protection device in FP1 in Sochi

Daniel Ricciardo trialling the Red Bull racing cockpit protection device in FP1 in Sochi

With the Red Bull Racing Team running their “canopy” cockpit protection concept which has been designed by the team to help the driver and their head should they come into impact on the track. Daniel Ricciardo did a instillation lap running the device on his car. This issue is more important than ever especially after losing the talented Jules Bianchi last year after his accident at the 2014 Japanese GP.

During FP1, we saw Lewis Hamilton losing the rear at Turn 2 and spinning onto the run-off area on his sixth lap, but given the low rates of tyre wear and degradation at the Sochi circuit the battle continued into their second runs.

We also saw Daniil Kvyat at the second to last corner spinning his Red Bull after the car couldn’t take the apex of the corner which also happened to Sebastian Vettel during the session as well, with both drivers able to continue running in the session.

Lewis Hamilton tops the timesheets in FP2 and FP3.

Lewis Hamilton tops the timesheets in FP2 and FP3.

FP2 saw Hamilton topping the timesheets with a lap time of 1.37.583 ahead of Vettel who was second 0.652 seconds behind, Rosberg was in third 0.867 seconds behind, Raikkonen was in fourth 1.210 seconds behind and Ricciardo was fifth 1.501 seconds behind Hamilton.

Bottas was sixth 1.602 seconds behind, Kvyat was seventh 1.610 seconds behind, Button was in eighth 1.613 seconds behind, Massa was ninth 1.706 seconds behind and Alonso was tenth 1.882 seconds behind Hamilton.

During FP2, we saw Sebastian Vettel grounding to a halt on the start/finish straight with what he reported as an electrical problem on his Ferrari just under an hour to go into the session. The virtual safety car system was deployed to allow the recovery of the Ferrari, which did disrupt the runs of a number of drivers.

During the session, we also saw Haas driver Romain Grosjean spinning on the circuit after carrying too much speed into the corner and triggering a yellow-flag zone with just under 50 minutes of the session to go. But at the end of the session, Manor driver Pascal Wehrlein stopping with a reported loss of power.

FP3 saw Hamilton topping the timesheets with a lap time of 1.36.403 ahead of Rosberg who was second 0.068 seconds behind, Vettel was in third 0.604 seconds behind, Raikkonen was in fourth 1.324 seconds behind and Massa was fifth 1.515 seconds behind Hamilton.

Bottas was sixth 1.582 seconds behind, Verstappen was seventh 1.730 seconds behind, Button was in eighth 1.857 seconds behind, Sainz Jr was ninth 2.062 seconds behind and Perez was tenth 2.139 seconds behind Hamilton.

During FP3, we saw Sergio Perez off the circuit after not making the corner, locking the rear and into the barrier at Turn 13 which deployed the Virtual Safety Car. He managed to keep the engine running but the marshals had to help him to get out of the barrier and get back to the pits to see what the issue was.

We also saw Nico Rosberg going off at the same corner as Sergio Perez with 40 minutes left of the session to run but Rosberg was able to find reverse and continued on running in the session.

You would be stupid not to bet against the Mercedes drivers of Hamilton and Rosberg to gain pole position again this weekend. As the Mercedes drivers seem to be performing brilliantly at the moment and the momentum is with them from all the track mileage and their strong form from the last race. Vettel, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Kvyat and even Bottas or Massa also cannot be discounted for the pole also as they are consistently within the top ten places at the moment.

However, I think that Toro Rosso, McLaren and Force India have shown that they could throw themselves into the mix and could qualify well here to be in the hunt for some decent points this weekend. We all look forward to the qualifying session of the Grand Prix with excitement…

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