The 2018 Formula 1 World Championship heads to the shores of the Black Sea this weekend for round 16, the Russian Grand Prix, at the Sochi Autodrom.
Designed by German architect Herman Tilke, Sochi is a street circuit with some permanent sections, and at 3.63 miles in length it is one of the longest on the calendar.
The layout is characterized by long straights and sweeping hairpins, but there are also some slow sections that feature 90-degree corners.
Meanwhile the surface is known for being very smooth and slippery as the circuit was only completed in 2014, however the asphalt has matured since then though not quite as much as expected due to the extremes of temperatures between the summer and winter. As a result, tire wear and degradation is still relatively low and thus Pirelli has nominated its softer compounds: soft, ultrasoft and hypersoft.
The weather forecast calls for mild conditions and only partly clouds throughout the weekend.
After some initial practice on Friday, Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel topped the time sheets, with Aston Martin Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen and Mercedes-AMG's Lewis Hamilton second and third fastest in the session. We also saw some new F1 recruits on the track for the first time, such as Antonio Giovinazzi who next season will drive for Alfa Romeo Sauber alongside current Ferrari driver Kimi Räikkönen. He will take the seat of Marcus Ericsson. Haas also confirmed this week that it will retain current drivers Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean next season.
Going into Saturday's qualifying session and Sunday's race, Hamilton leads the 2018 Drivers' Championship with 281 points. Vettel is second with 241 points and Räikkönen is third with 174 points. In the Constructors' Championship, Mercedes leads with 452 points versus the 415 of Ferrari and 274 of Red Bull. Last year's winner in Russia was Valtteri Bottas driving for Mercedes.
Interestingly, the Russian Grand Prix, while on the modern calendar has only been run since 2014, was held for the first time all the way back in 1913, before the formation of the Soviet Union. The early races were held for just two years at a circuit in Saint Petersburg before ceasing due to the onset of World War I.