Two Russian Grands Prix were held in St. Petersburg prior to the outbreak of the First World War – and it would be an entire century before the race was resurrected.A street-style circuit was constructed around the area used for the 2014 Winter Olympics, near the Black Sea resort in Adler, situated within the sprawling Sochi region.
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For 2018 the event has reverted to a September date, having been shifted to an early-season slot for both 2016 and 2017.
The 5.9km circuit is lined with walls and negotiates its way around some of the buildings that hosted events at the Winter Olympics four years ago.
The circuit’s iconic corner is the long radius Turn 3, a left hander that swoops around the flags that line the medals plaza used at the Winter Olympics.
That comes after a lengthy full-throttle section to begin the lap, with the run to the heavy braking zone at Turn 2 on the opening lap having proved pivotal in previous seasons.
The remainder of the lap is largely a forgettable sequence of low-to-medium speed corners, the bulk of which are near-90-degree turns.
Turn 14 – an almost-blind left kink that immediately leads into a sharp right-hander – provides a challenge, especially given the proximity of the exit wall if a driver gets it wrong.
“Sochi is a pretty unique circuit, it’s very flat and open,” explains Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.
“In some ways it feels like driving flat out in a car park, but it’s a surprisingly enjoyable lap. Apart from the long straight, there’s a lot going on and it’s a layout that keeps you thinking.
“It’s definitely grown on me since we started racing there. The track surface has also improved over the last few years.
“When we first went there the track was very slippery but the grip levels have improved as the track has rubbered in, making it a more enjoyable circuit to drive.”
What happened in 2017?
Ferrari locked out the front row of the grid but Valtteri Bottas executed the perfect getaway to launch into the lead on the run to Turn 2.
Bottas soaked up race-long pressure from Sebastian Vettel to collect his maiden victory, just six-tenths ahead of the Ferrari driver, with Kimi Raikkonen third.
Bottas’ win ensured Mercedes maintained its unbeaten record in Russia, having triumphed in 1913 and 1914 (under its Benz guise), 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Lewis Hamilton succeeded upon Sochi’s return to the calendar in 2014, and doubled up a year later, while in 2016 it was Nico Rosberg who collected the victor’s trophy.
Hamilton heads to Russia 40 points clear of Vettel in the standings, having converted pole position into victory in Singapore, with his opponent third.
It is the largest advantage either has enjoyed over the other at any stage this year.
In the Constructors’ battle Mercedes holds a 37-point advantage over Ferrari.
Tyre supplier Pirelli has nominated the Hypersoft (pink), Ultrasoft (purple) and Soft (yellow) compounds for a race that typically features little in the way of degradation.
Either the Ultrasoft or Soft tyres must be run for one stint of the Grand Prix, assuming dry conditions prevail.
There will be two DRS zones, each with their own detection point, one located along the main straight, which has been extended by 95 metres, and another between Turns 10 and 12.
Four test/reserve drivers will be in action during Friday’s opening 90-minute session: Artem Markelov (Renault), Nicholas Latifi (Force India), Lando Norris (McLaren) and Antonio Giovinazzi (Sauber).
Home representative Markelov will replace Carlos Sainz Jr. for his first appearance at a Grand Prix weekend while Latifi will step into Sergio Perez’s VJM11 for his third 2018 run.
Norris, preparing for his 2019 debut, will add to his experience as he gets set for the big time while Giovinazzi’s run out will be his first since confirmation that he will replace Marcus Ericsson next year.
Formula 2 and the GP3 Series will both have their penultimate rounds this weekend – meaning George Russell and Anthoine Hubert stand a chance of wrapping up the respective titles.
Russell holds a 22-point advantage over 2019 McLaren F1 racer Norris while Renault affiliated Hubert heads occasional Force India tester Nikita Mazepin by 29 points.
Source: Story and image Motorsport Week