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F1 2017: Russian Gp Preview – Game On In Sochi

From the middle of the Bahrain desert the Formula 1 paddock travels to coast of Russia for the fourth round of the 2017 season.

The Sochi Autodrom made its debut on the F1 calendar in 2014 and received a fairly lukewarm reception from fans. For one thing the circuit lacks any sort of elevation change, which normally accounts for a trickier cambers and braking zones. The layout of the track, at 5.8 kilometers, is characterized by long straits and ninety-degree corners, which will test a car’s efficiently in traction and how well it rotates on its axis. “It’s always challenging to come from high speed into a low-speed corner and achieve the best out of braking,” says Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

In the three races at the Sochi Autodrom the amount of tyre degradation experienced has been negligible. Memorably, in 2014, after flat-spotting his tyres into turn one, Nico Rosberg pitted on the first lap of the race and completed 52 laps on one set of tyres. But it might be a bit different in 2017 for a variety of reasons. Firstly, the paddock arrives in Russia slightly later in the year than normal and, temperature-wise, it should be hotter. Secondly, this will be the third race weekend on the track surface, which will have ‘settled’ in a bit more and therefore should produce more grip. The 2017 cars will also corner a lot faster than in previous years which will place significantly more stress on the tyres which should effect tyre-life. Pirelli have nominated the soft, super-soft, and ultra-soft compounds for this weekend’s race.

Sochi Autodrom, Russian Grand PrixWho will it suit? With all things being equal Mercedes has proven that on Saturday’s, in qualifying, they are still king. But even so Sunday is where the points are awarded and this is where Ferrari is likely to come into its own. Traditionally, Ferrari has performed better on the super-soft tyre than Mercedes and this, along with their inherent pace, will likely by their trump card. Nevertheless, it will still require a perfect all-round performance from the team, including the pitwall’s calls on strategy.

On paper it shouldn’t be a circuit where Red Bull does well but they have in the past. It’s unlikely that they’ll be going for the win or even the podium. Nevertheless, where there is a Max there almost always seems to be a way. There is something special in the make-up and performance from the young Dutchman that demands attention and which makes it impossible for him to be ruled out of the equation. It’s always an exciting prospect to imagine what he might pull out of his bag of tricks come race day.

GP RUSSIA F1/2016In the mid-field Williams should do well given the Mercedes power unit bolted to the back of their car. Though through no fault of his own Lance Stroll is yet to finish a race in 2017. It will be a tall order but it needs to be the Canadian driver who shines for the British team this weekend.

Who would’ve thought at the height of Mercedes domination last year that in 2017, on the cusp of the fourth round of the season, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel would be leading the driver’s championship by seven points. And in truth, any one of four drivers has a legitimate chance of winning the Russian grand prix this weekend.

About Natalie Le Clue

Natalie Le Clue is an F1 aficionado of the most dedicated vein. And, true to form for any F1-enamoured junkie, she readily admits to crying the first time she saw a F1 car, calling it an ‘overwhelming moment’. Natalie has won the 2010 gSport Woman In Media award, the 2015 Woman In Media Print award, and has been named as one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in South African Sport by the Department of Sport and Recreation. Natalie is currently serving as SAfm's F1 correspondent. Follow Natalie on Twitter @nlc27

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2017 United States GP Broadcast Times

CDTGMTGMT+2Local
Free Practice 1Friday 10:00Friday 15:00Friday 17:00Friday 10:00
Free Practice 2Friday 14:00Friday 19:00Friday 21:00Friday 14:00
Free Practice 3Saturday 11:00Saturday 16:00Saturday 18:00Saturday 11:00
QualifyingSaturday 16:00Saturday 21:00Saturday 23:00Saturday 16:00
RaceSunday 14:00Sunday 19:00Sunday 21:00Sunday 14:00

2017 Drivers Championship

Pos.DriverPoints
1 Lewis Hamilton306
2 Sebastian Vettel247
3 Valtteri Bottas234
4 Daniel Ricciardo192
5 Kimi Raikkonen148
> Full Championship Table

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