History will be made this weekend when the first-ever Formula One Russian Grand Prix takes place at the newly-built Sochi Autodrom. The track’s 3.6-mile length makes it the third-longest on the 2014 calendar and drivers will need to complete 53 laps on Sunday. There are 18 (12 right, 6 left) turns and two straights, and the top speed should be about 200 mph (the average will be about 133 mph).
The Sochi Autodrom is located in the heart of the Black Sea resort area, and it weaves its way around the infrastructure originally installed for the 2014 Winter Olympics. Incidentally, this makes it the first track in F1 history to be located on the site of an Olympics venue.
The track is ostensibly a street circuit, but it has an interesting mix of permanent and temporary sections. It’s lined by walls and has little run-off, meaning drivers will have little room for errors. The layout was penned by none other than acclaimed F1 architect Hermann Tilke and was first given the green light back in 2010. Planning for a Russian Grand Prix goes back much further, however—all the way back to 1983, in fact.
While it’s always exciting to see an F1 race take place at a new venue, this weekend’s event will be shrouded by thoughts of injured Marussia driver Jules Bianchi who remains in hospital with serious brain injuries after a tragic accident at last week’s Japanese Grand Prix. Marussia has not revealed its plans for this weekend’s race. New reserve driver Alexander Rossi may drive in place of Bianchi or the team could field just one car driven by Bianchi’s teammate Max Chilton.
Going into the weekend, Mercedes AMG’s Lewis Hamilton leads the 2014 Drivers’ Championship with 266 points, with his teammate Nico Rosberg second with 256 points and Infiniti Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo third with 193 points. In the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes AMG has 522 points versus the 332 of Infiniti Red Bull Racing and 201 of Williams.