2017 Formula One Russian Grand Prix preview

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Sochi Autodrom, home of the Formula One Russian Grand Prix

Round four of the 2017 Formula One World Championship is the Russian Grand Prix which is on this weekend in the Black Sea town of Sochi, located roughly one thousand miles south of Moscow.

The Sochi Autodrom where the race is held is a street circuit that winds its way through the former site of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, taking in the Sochi Medals Plaza and the Bolshoy Ice Dome. The layout was devised by renowned German race track architect Herman Tilke and measures 3.63 miles in length.

It’s made up of a combination of long straights and sweeping hairpins plus some slow 90-degree turns. And because the track is still relatively new—the first Russian race was only in 2014—and rarely used throughout the year, it has one of the smoothest surfaces of any track this season.

This smooth surface, together with a mild weather forecast for the weekend, means Pirelli is going with its three softest tire compounds: soft, supersoft and ultrasoft.

After the initial practice on Friday, Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen proved the fastest. He was followed by Mercedes AMG drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton. There weren’t any dramas, though Russian driver Sergey Sirotkin, who filled in for Nico Hulkenberg at Renault during the session, could only manage two laps before his car went limp.

Going into tomorrow’s qualifying session and Sunday’s race, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel leads the 2017 Drivers’ Championship with 68 points. Hamilton is second with 61 points and Bottas is third with 38 points. In the Constructors’ Championship, Ferrari leads with 102 points versus the 99 of Mercedes and 47 of Red Bull. Last year’s winner in Sochi was Nico Rosberg driving for Mercedes.

In other F1 news, the sport’s organizers have decided on a clear shield solution over the halo to improve cockpit protection. More testing will be required though organizers are hopeful of having the protection ready in time for the 2018 season. The organizers have also proposed dropping the T-shaped rear wings and shark fin engine covers because of concerns the parts might snap off during races. One of the T-wings on Mercedes’ car snapped off during practice at the previous Bahrain Grand Prix.

 
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