Russian GP preview

Russian Grand Prix 2017

Hear from McLaren-Honda drivers Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne as they prepare for Round Four at the Sochi Autodrom. 

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.”

Circuit info 

Circuit name: Sochi Autodrom
First race: 2014

Previous winners

 2016Nico Rosberg
 2015Lewis Hamilton 
 2014Lewis Hamilton

History lesson

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 passes alongside the Olympic Village, making it the third circuit on this year’s calendar to incorporate a former Olympic venue, along with the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve (Montreal ’76) and the Circuit de Catalunya (Barcelona ’92).

What makes the race special?

It was a long time in the making. Former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone first tried to stage a Russian Grand Prix in 1983, but it took the 2014 Winter Olympics to act as the catalyst for the race finally taking place.

Bet you never knew...

Two non-championship Russian Grands Prix were staged in St Petersburg before the First World War, in 1913 and ’14.

Crazy moment

The 2015 Russian Grand Prix weekend got underway in bizarre circumstances, when a track sweeper spilled diesel at Turns Seven, Eight, Nine and 10 on Thursday evening. The problem wasn’t discovered until Friday morning, resulting in the first practice session being shortened by 30 minutes while the mess was tidied up.

What we love

The scenery. The track is situated between the banks of the Black Sea and the Caucasus Mountains. Whichever way you look, there’s a dramatic backdrop.

McLaren memory

2014, when Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen finished fourth and fifth. The team had performed well all weekend, with Button lining up fourth on the grid and Magnussen sixth.

Sporting legacy

Sochi has long been Russia’s largest and most popular resort, but it has also emerged as one of the country’s top sporting destinations. As well as the F1 race, it hosted the 22nd Olympic Winter Games and 11th Paralympic Winter Games; it will also be a host city for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Did you know?

The Sochi Autodrom is one of 10 tracks on the 2017 F1 calendar that has been designed by Hermann Tilke.

Don’t forget

There have been two Russian drivers in F1 history: Vitaly Petrov and Daniil Kvyat.