Ahead of the 2021 Russian GP, which will be the latest Formula 1 race of a thrilling season, we look at five facts about the race.
The latest race of the 2021 Formula 1 season will be held at Russia. The Russian GP, which has been on the F1 calendar since 2014, has been shifted around the calendar since then. Originally held towards the end of the year, in 2016 it was moved into the early phases of the season. Since then, it has been shifted around even further. In 2017 it was moved to April, then in 2018, 2019 and 2020 it was held in September. Nevertheless, the race has seen more than its fair share of interesting and even controversial moments in its seven-year existence.
Ahead of the 2021 Russian GP, we look at five facts about the race.
Plans for a Grand Prix to be held in Russia began coming up all the way back in the 1980s – back when the Soviet Union still existed. Then-F1 supremo Bernie Eccelstone was keen to get a race behind the Iron Curtain. Plans were also drawn up for Moscow to hold a race, tentatively called the “Grand Prix of the Soviet Union”.
However, those plans fell through and the first communist nation to host a race was Hungary in 1986. A Russia race was planned and shelved repeatedly in the early 2000s as well. Finally, the plan came together in 2010 to host a race in Sochi rather than Moscow.
The circuit is a 5.9 km long street circuit that is built around the Sochi Olympic Park. The park was built for the 2014 Winter Olympics that were held in Russia that year and thus, the call was made to build the circuit around the park as well. The circuit was designed by Hermann Tilke, whose track records for circuits is mixed at best.
Indeed, the Sochi Autodrom doesn’t have a record for the most exciting races on the calendar. However, the speedy nature of the track has led to a number of accidents, especially in Turn 2 of the track. We’ll get to the most notable of those crashes in just a bit.
The Sochi circuit made its debut the same year that Mercedes began their ascent up the F1 ladder. In fact, since 2014, every single race winner at the circuit has been a Mercedes driver. Lewis Hamilton won four races in 2014, 2015, 2018 and 2019. Valtteri Bottas has won two races in Russia, in 2017 and the most recent edition in 2020. Nico Rosberg won this race in 2016 – the year he won his one and only world title.
In fact, Mercedes also sealed their first two constructor’s championships at this very circuit in 2014 and 2015. This is the only circuit on the calendar that has only seen one constructor emerge victorious. Given Hamilton and Mercedes desperately need a win to stay in the title hunt, they would hope history repeats itself this weekend.
Remember the mention of notable Turn 2 crashes? Well, the crash in 2016 was so notable it saw a driver lose his seat in the team. Yes, let us look back at 2016 and analyse a disastrous crash involving none other than the only Russian on the grid at that time, Daniil Kvyat.
Going into Turn 2 on the opening lap, Kvyat slammed his Red Bull into the back of Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari. To make matters worse, he bumped into Vettel again into Turn 3 and caused the German to retire. Afterwards, Vettel and Red Bull’s other driver Daniel Ricciardo – whose car Vettel bumped into due to the crash – demanded an apolgy from Kvyat.
They duly got one, but Red Bull summoned him for talks and he was then sent back to Toro Rosso, Red Bull’s junior team. His replacement? This young Dutchman named Max Verstappen. Wonder what happened with him…
The 2021 edition of this race will be the second last time this race will be held in Sochi. Why? Because, Formula 1 announced earlier this year that they would be racing from Igora Drive near Saint Petersburg from 2023 onwards. As such, this year and next year seem likely to be the final F1 races to be held at Sochi.
The current track at Igora Drive is under renovation, as the plan is to extend the circuit from its current 4.08 km length into a 5.18 km length track. Both major straights on the track are set to be extended for F1. It remains to be seen, however, if this track will spark some competitiveness into the Russian GP.