Reports

Russian F1 Grand Prix

2017 RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX – SET UP

The inaugural Russian Grand Prix took place eight months after the closing ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. The 5.848km/3.634-mile street track now passes alongside the Sochi Olympic Village, part of the "Russia Riviera", on the Black Sea coast.

NEED TO KNOW

Race title Formula One VTB Russian Grand Prix
Circuit name Sochi Autodrom
First race 2014

TRAVEL

City Sochi
Time zone BST +2
Population 450,000
Surprising fact Sochi attracts four million tourists a year, but only three per cent are foreign. Many Muscovites head to Sochi – known as the Russian Riviera – in the summer
Weather Sochi has a similar latitude to Monaco and, as a result, it gets more than 200 days of sunshine a year. The average daily temperature in April is 16.8 degrees

Track

Track length 5.848km / 3.634 miles
2016 pole position Nico Rosberg - 1:35.417s
2016 winner Nico Rosberg, 53 laps - 1:32:41.997s
2016 fastest lap Nico Rosberg - 1:39.094s (lap 52)
Lap record 1:39.094s (Nico Rosberg, 2016)
Tyre choice Purple Ultrasoft | Red Supersoft | Yellow Soft
Distance to Turn One 450m / 0.280 miles
Longest straight 650m / 0.404 miles
Top speed 345 kmh / 214 mph (on the approach to Turn Two)
Full throttle 60 percent
Brake wear Medium. There are only two significant braking events, into Turns Two and 13. The rest of the lap is relatively undemanding on brakes
Fuel consumption 1.9kg per lap, which is high.
ERS demands Low
Gear changes 40 per lap / 2120 per race

RACE

Laps 53 laps
Start time 15:00hrs local / 13:00hrs BST / 14:00hrs CET
Grid advantage Pole position is located on the left side of the track, on the racing line. There is more grip available on this section of track, but a fast-starting car on the inside can use the flat-out right-hander at Turn One to muscle ahead before the braking point for Turn Two
DRS There are two DRS zones, on the approaches to Turns Two and 13. The activation point for the first DRS zone is on the apex of Turn One; the second DRS zone winds its way right-handed through turns 11 and 12. Both zones offer good overtaking opportunities
Don't put the kettle on... in the middle of the race, when the cars are expected to make their one and only pitstop. If you can’t wait until then, the start is usually quite lively. It’s a long run to the braking point of Turn Two, meaning there’s a lot of speed to scrub off when the cars are in close proximity
Pitlane length/Pitstops 330m / 0.205 miles. Estimated time loss for a pitstop is 21s, which is relatively short
Safety Car 66 per cent, which is high. There have been Safety Car periods in two of the three Russian Grands Prix to date, largely caused by the lack of run-off around the lap. When there’s an accident, there’s usually a Safety Car or Virtual Safety Car period, while the debris gets cleared away
Watch out for... Turn Three. This 180-degree left-hander will be flat-out in qualifying and the race this year, giving the drivers more lines and overtaking opportunities. Expect to see cars running two-a-breast through here as drivers seek the inside line for Turn Four

THE DRIVERS

FERNANDO ALONSO

“Sochi Autodrom is an interesting circuit – a mixture of challenges, and ones which I think will be tackled quite differently this year with the new regulations for 2017. For example, Turn Three last year used to be tricky and you needed to be very precise – it’s a multi-apex left-hander which means good car balance and control are important to not get out of shape mid-corner. This year, though, it will likely be taken flat, so I’m looking forward to seeing how the feeling in the car has changed around this circuit. 

“There are two long, slightly-curved straights and high-speed corners, which means this circuit will be challenging for us with the package we have, but our car is also very well-balanced, so I hope we can get the most out of the many 90-degree corners that make this circuit so unique. Although it’s technically a city circuit, it’s pretty fast overall and the track itself is wide, so it usually provides close racing and good overtaking opportunities. 

“A positive result for us in Sochi will be to finish the race with both cars, first of all, as we’ve suffered a few reliability issues over the past couple of weekends. I followed the test in Bahrain and I’m pleased that we were able to secure a lot of valuable data from both the car and the power unit, and I know everyone at McLaren-Honda is working hard to put that to good use to aid our progress as quickly as possible. The season is long, but there isn’t much time between races – especially fly-aways – for development, so the laps we managed on the final day of the test were a big positive for us and hopefully will be beneficial to us over the next few races.”

STOFFEL VANDOORNE

“I’ve raced in Sochi before and had good results there – it’s where I clinched the GP2 championship in 2015 – so that’s definitely a plus point for me going into the weekend. We’ve not been so lucky recently on my side of the garage and I’ve missed quite a lot of valuable mileage, but I hope we can improve that situation this weekend. 

“After a difficult couple of weeks, the last day of the Bahrain test was very encouraging, both for me and for the whole team. It was a boost we needed and provided us with a lot of useful information about the direction we are taking the whole package in, so we go to Sochi with a better feeling than we had on Sunday night after a disappointing race. 

“As I’ve said before, on tracks like this where straight-line speed is important, we know we’ll already be slightly on the back-foot heading into the weekend. Our focus should definitely be on maximising our track time and working on reliability. If we can have a clean weekend from that point of view and no issues with the car, it will give us the best chance to find performance for the race, and we’ll give it our best shot with the package we have.”

THE MANAGEMENT

ERIC BOULLIER

“The past few races for us have been more unpredictable than we had hoped or imagined. We haven’t yet managed to put together a trouble-free weekend on either side of the garage, which is the first step in order to be able to work on performance. Honda are working hard to find solutions to the MGU-H issue we have been suffering with, and on the McLaren side it’s important we make sure all of our operational processes and procedures are bulletproof all the way down the line, so that we can at least see the chequered flag with both cars. 

“Following the test, we’re working hard on bringing more new parts to Sochi, and chassis-wise we are confident in the development path we are taking and constantly working to find extra performance wherever we can. Both drivers report positively on the feeling inside the car, so it’s important we continue to build on this as the season progresses. 

“As we head to the Sochi Autodrom for the fourth time, we need to focus primarily on pulling together a smooth weekend in every session, which is the only way we’ll be able to see a representative performance from both drivers in the MCL32 on track. The Russian Grand Prix has so far shown itself to be a closely-fought race, and I hope we’ll have the opportunity to be in the mix.”

YUSUKE HASEGAWA

“After a disappointing grand prix weekend in Bahrain, we have since had an extremely busy few days during in-season testing, also at the Bahrain International Circuit. The team has been working hard to implement some countermeasures to help combat our MGU-H issues. 

 “By the second day of testing, we think we were able to confirm the direction of our solution against the issue after completing 81 laps with Stoffel behind the wheel. The results are testament to the team’s hard work and determination. 

 “The 2016 Russian Grand Prix saw McLaren-Honda finish the race with two cars in the points, so of course we will do our best to try and replicate this. That said, I expected the Russian Grand Prix will be another challenging race weekend for us. 

“The nature of the track, with its long straights combined with 90-degree corners, means the race will be stop-start, putting emphasis on the balance of energy management. Unlocking power and managing fuel will also be key. We will of course work hard with McLaren during the practice sessions in order to find the best set-up, and we are hoping to show a good performance.”

2017 RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX – FREE PRACTICE

"LET'S SEE WHAT WE CAN LEARN TOMORROW"

 

A difficult first day’s practice in Sochi for Stoffel Vandoorne, who earned a 15-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race after his car was fitted with its fifth MGU-K and turbo-charger of the season. It will mean a tough afternoon for the Belgian, who must start from the back. 

Despite this mishap, the team had a productive day evaluating a handful of new components and conducting some aerodynamic development work.

Fernando Alonso ended the day 12th quickest, with Stoffel 16th after his final run on the Ultrasoft tyre was disrupted by a suspected slow puncture, which was traced to a faulty sensor on a rear wheel.

FERNANDO ALONSO

#FA14 MCL32-03
FP1 1:38.813s (+2.739s) 16 laps 13th
FP2 1:36.765s (+2.645s) 27 laps 12th
FP3 1:36.869s (+2.868s) 12 laps 14th

“This is something of a power circuit, so, with our car in basically the same configuration as we had in Bahrain, we’re not expecting to make much of a step forward this weekend. I think it’s going to be an interesting weekend in terms of what we can achieve on what will be a tough track for us.

“We’ve been testing the tyres throughout the sessions – they seem to last for a very long time and be very consistent, so it’s likely that we could have a one-stop race, as predicted. Also, the tyres seem to take some time to fully warm up, so it doesn’t look like the first lap we do in qualifying will necessarily be the fastest – we’ll have to do multiple laps. That’s the same for everyone, but we need to find a way to speed up the warm-up.

“Friday’s homework is done, let’s see what we can learn tomorrow.”

Stoffel Vandoorne

#SV2 MCL32-01
FP1 1:39.451s (+3.467s) 19 laps 17th
FP2 1:37.125s (+3.005s) 25 laps 16th
FP3 1:37.182 (+3.181s) 15 laps 17th

“We had some engine problems again in FP1 – and that means we get a 15-place grid penalty this weekend. Still, it was really only a matter of time before we got a penalty since the start of the season has been tough for us.

“Unfortunately, today was a tough day but you have to try your best to move on from it. There’s nothing much we can do about the situation we’re in at the moment. Still, let’s hope some improvements will come soon.

“FP2 wasn’t a 100% problem-free session, but at least we were able to get some more laps under our belts. Hopefully tomorrow we’ll have a smoother day.”

THE MANAGEMENT

ERIC BOULLIER

“It was obviously disappointing to see Stoffel receive a 15-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race after fitting his fifth MGU-K and turbo-charger inbetween FP1 and FP2. That said, I must commend the mechanics for doing an absolutely fantastic job at effecting the change so efficiently – for Stoffel to be able to resume running just 10 minutes into FP2 was extremely impressive.

“Apart from the change to the PU elements, we had a productive day: we were able to successfully trial some new components, and we feel they’re delivering as we expected.

“Obviously, Sunday is going to be tough – especially for Stoffel – but we’re staying focused on the job in hand and will push for improved performance in the race.”

YUSUKE HASEGAWA

“Today was a day of mixed fortunes. Fernando and Stoffel both finished the day without having the MGU-H issues we suffered in Bahrain – however, we detected an issue with Stoffel's PU at the end of FP1 which, while not a fundamental issue, we decided to change it order to get him back out on track as quickly as possible.

“The team did an absolutely incredible job, and Stoffel was back out on track in FP2 at almost exactly the same time as Fernando, so his running was barely compromised. I want to thank all the team members for their hard work.

“Unfortunately, this also means that Stoffel will start the race with grid penalties on Sunday. However, I am positive he will perform at his best in both qualifying and the race. 

“Fernando ended the day without any troubles and we tested various settings with all types of tyres and some aero parts. We were able to continue our preparations for tomorrow’s qualifying with him and will continue our hard work and hope that both drivers have a good race on Sunday.”

2017 RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX – QUALIFYING

“WE’LL MAKE THE MOST OF EVERY OPPORTUNITY TOMORROW”

Fernando Alonso grabbed his car by the scruff of its neck in both Q1 and Q2 of the Russian Grand Prix, eventually ending up 15th quickest after describing his quickest lap of the afternoon as ‘nearly perfect’.

Stoffel Vandoorne set the 17th-fastest time in Q1, but will start tomorrow’s race from the back of the grid after incurring a 15-place grid penalty for exceeding the maximum number of annually permitted power unit components during yesterday’s free practice session. He will start 20th tomorrow.

 

Fernando Alonso

#FA14 MCL32-03
Q1 1:36.353s (14th) Option tyre
Q2 1:36.660s (15th) Option tyre

“It was a good qualifying in terms of the performance of the chassis and aerodynamics – the balance of the car felt quite good; quite grippy in the corners. I felt competitive, and my Q1 lap was very good.

“The tyres are tricky around here, as you need to warm them up quite hard, but everything went okay today. The sunny weather helped – and I think it’s going to be a good tyre for the race.

“Points tomorrow are our target, we need to have a good start, a good strategy, and a good race. Even then, we won’t be fast enough to get into in the points so we’ll need some help from the guys ahead of us.”

Stoffel Vandoorne

#SV2 MCL32-01
Q1 1:37.070s (17th overall) Option tyre

“After receiving the grid penalty yesterday for changing power unit components, we chose to direct our focus more towards tomorrow’s race.

“We knew we’d more or less be starting from the back, so our main aim will be to try and get the most out of tomorrow’s race. Although we know it’s going to be difficult for us to overtake around here, I still think that a lot of things can happen over a race distance. Even if it turns out to be a one-stop race, it’ll be a long afternoon – and, hopefully, there’ll be some incidents or a Safety Car, which could create some scenarios that might play into our hands.

“We expected to have another difficult weekend, but I’m hoping for a better day and the opportunity to make something happen in the race.”

THE MANAGEMENT

ERIC BOULLIER

 “We knew even before the start of qualifying that this would be a tricky session for us. Stoffel’s 15-place grid penalty, which was received yesterday for fitting the fifth MGU-K and turbo of the season, meant he was always likely to be starting from the back, and that’s unfortunately the case for tomorrow.

“It’ll be a tough afternoon for him, but he’s resolved to fight hard – it’s good to see such fighting spirit given the somewhat trying circumstances.

“Fernando drove with all his typical vigour this afternoon, leaving absolutely nothing on the track when he set his fastest time of the day, in Q1. He looked utterly magnificent out on-track, and we can only hope that we’re able to provide him with a package better suited to his mighty talents sooner rather than later.

“We approach tomorrow’s race looking to make the most of each and every opportunity that may come our way. Rest assured, we’ve lost none of our fight.”

YUSUKE HASEGAWA

“We expected this circuit to be challenging for our package, and, unfortunately, today’s result reflects this.

“During FP3 this morning we were concentrating most of our time on finding the best balance for the car. Both drivers tried various ride-heights and mechanical balances in order to find the best setting for qualifying at this circuit. As this circuit is quite tricky for tyre management, we also focused on the usage of each type of tyre in order to warm them up efficiently.

“During qualifying today, Fernando showed his excellent performance once again by reaching Q2 in tough circumstances. Stoffel also showed a brilliant performance keeping his motivation high despite having a 15-place penalty for the race.

“Tomorrow’s race will be hard, but everyone in the team will fight hard to get the best we can out of our package and push for points.”

2017 RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX – RACE

"YOU CANNOT HIDE BEHIND A RESULT LIKE THIS"

A hugely disappointing afternoon for the whole McLaren-Honda team after Fernando Alonso failed to start the Russian Grand Prix, and Stoffel Vandoorne took the chequered flag in 14th position.

Fernando suffered an ERS software fault on the parade lap, and, despite attempting to restart it during the lap, he was unable to make it back to the pits and was left stranded on the circuit.

Stoffel put his head down and drove a tidy, measured race, finishing 14th – getting the best from his car but unable to challenge any of the runners ahead of him.

FERNANDO ALONSO

#FA14 MCL32-03
Started 16th
Finished DNF (ERS software failure) 0 laps

“It’s tough, it’s frustrating – every weekend is the same.

“My power unit didn’t have the usual power during the formation lap, so my engineer told me to change some settings on the steering wheel. Unfortunately, that didn’t work and towards the end of the lap the engine shut down. My race was over before it started. 

“Not being able to take part in the race today and not being able to finish any race so far this season is extremely tough.

“But Formula1 is my life, so hopefully we can improve the situation soon.”

STOFFEL VANDOORNE

#SV2 MCL32-01
Started 19th (following Fernando's retirement)
Finished 14th
Fastest lap 1:39.790 (lap 47) +2.946s (14th)
Pit stops Two (lap 1 - 2.73s & lap 24 - 3.26 + 5s penalty) Prime > Option > Option

“From my side, 14th position was pretty much the best possible result today. “I had a decent start but had to avoid a first-corner accident, which meant I got a five-second time penalty for missing the markers at Turn Two.

“However, I don’t think that did anything to change today’s result. It was a pretty normal race, we ran at our own pace, I did the maximum possible and I think 14th is a fair reflection of where we’re at.

“Fernando not being able to start shows that there’s still a lot of work to do on the reliability side – that’s two races in a row where two McLarens haven’t started. That’s a shame, but at least we got to the finish – that meant a lot of learning for the team and a lot of learning for myself.

“But, in terms of pace, we’re still not quick enough – that’s for sure.”

THE MANAGEMENT

ERIC BOULLIER

“You cannot hide behind a result like this: finishing 14th is not why McLaren-Honda goes racing, and, believe me, we are working hard to make sure this level of performance doesn’t last for long.  

“That said, it’s still extremely disappointing to run into reliability and performance issues during a race weekend – we must work together to pull ourselves out of this position.

“Given the performance limitations he had today, Stoffel drove a very measured and efficient race, doing everything that was asked of him to look after his tyres and fuel. As I say, 14th is not a notable result, but it’s exactly what we could expect from his car this afternoon. It’s pleasing that he was able to make the finish and gain some useful mileage.

“As for Fernando, I share his frustration – it’s not acceptable to start the second consecutive grand prix with only one car, and we need to address this shortcoming immediately. He is naturally disappointed, but things will get better.”

YUSUKE HASEGAWA

“We’ve had an incredibly difficult and ultimately disappointing weekend here in Russia.

“That said, it was a positive that Stoffel finished the race, especially in such tough conditions, starting from the back of the grid. Today his running was impressive and he kept consistent pace in a difficult situation with tyre and fuel management. Stoffel hasn’t had an easy start to the season with many issues during each race weekend, so we’re happy that he finally took the chequered flag, albeit in P14 which is of course not where we want to be.

“Fernando lost the power from his deployment with the system failure of ERS during the formation lap. Although we tried to fix it by rebooting the system while running, we weren’t able to recover it. As a result, we had to stop the car out on the track and were unable to start the race. We’ll be investigating the cause of the system failure.

“It’s a big disappointment for us that we’re not able to complete the race with both drivers, but we will move forwards from this and keep pushing. We’re expecting some updates to the PU over the next few races, and we’ll continue working on our development in order to be more competitive with better reliability.”