Formula 1

Formula 1 drivers set for high speed thrill at Sochi Autodrom

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Formula 1 teams and drivers are preparing for a new challenge as the Sochi Autodrom hosts the inaugural Russian Grand Prix.

Set among the stadia of the 2014 Winter Olympics, the circuit winds its way around the spectacular cauldron before sweeping past the Ice Hockey and other incredible venues that became the centrepiece of the games back in February.

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Mercedes set to shine

Looking at the layout it appears that it will be a track that suits the strengths of the Mercedes.

Twice the cars will be nudging 200mph, down the long straight that incorporates a right kink as turn one and along a sweeping second straight at the top of the circuit en route to a twisty and technical final sector.

This means the power of the Silver Arrows will shine through but also the drive-ability of the Mercedes unit as smooth delivery of the power and good traction is needed out of the endless selection of 90-degree turns.

Turn 4

From looking at the design there is one section that jumps out as something that will make this circuit unique, the never ending turn four.

Some believed it would another copy of Istanbul's iconic quadruple-apex turn eight, however, in reality it is simply meant to be a curving straight.

The corner takes the cars around the fountain and park area under the giant cauldron that held the Olympic flame during the games and could or could not be a crucial part of the circuit.

The downforce on a modern F1 car, albeit still a good chunk less than last year, should make it as it is designed to be, a straight, but it will also put a lot of load particularly through the front right tyre, and as the grip goes down, could make it a very tricky section indeed.

A street-like venue where you can overtake

Even though it is now a purpose-built racing facility, the Sochi Autodrom has very much of a street circuit feel. Drivers have compared it to Abu Dhabi's Yas Marina circuit where despite run-off areas at most parts of the track, it does have a street circuit feel.

At several points do the barriers line the track, like at a street circuit, while the lack of high-speed turns and undulations also give the street-like challenge.

One key difference, however, is there are places to overtake. The circuit will feature two DRS zones, along the straights I mentioned earlier, and they lead into two tight right-handers.

The problem with the Valencia street circuit, that was last used in 2012, was the corners that led onto the long straights were slow and therefore the driver behind had to be very close to have a chance to overtake.

But at Sochi the corners are fast enough that the momentum lost following a car isn't totally lost so slipstreaming and then the use of DRS will be more effective.

Detailed lap

Now lets look at each part of this 18-turn, 5.8km circuit in greater detail so you know where you're going while watching the F1 this weekend.

Sector 1

At the beginning of the lap, the start/ finish line comes up early on the long main straight, very reminiscent of Valencia, the first corner is a flat-out approximately 175mph right kink that passes a theme park en route to the Olympic park.

Arriving at over 200mph at the end of the straight the drivers face a big braking zone for turn two which a tighter right hander than first appears. Plenty of overtaking will happen into here and a big run-off area will likely see a lot of action in practice and at the start.

Then a little kink at turn three enters the long, long, long left at turn four that will be in effect a straight rounding the cauldron and the Fisht stadium.

Depending on how wide the cars are on the exit of four will depend how tricky the approach to another slow left at turn five is.

Expected to be travelling around 180mph it will be about braking in a straight line for a corner that could also see a few incidents and overtakes during the race.

Sector 2

A short straight starts the middle sector before another 90-degree right at turn six which looks easy but often are the hardest ones to get right.

A flat-out kink starts a stretch of quicker corners starting with turn eight a tricky right hander where the driver must carry as much speed as possible without running wide on the exit, then they will sweep to the right-hand side of the track for turn nine which is quite similar but widens on the exit through a second apex.

Turn 10 is a crucial corner leading onto the second long straight, this right hander is about precision and carrying momentum onto the straight that sweeps right at turn 11 and back left just as the drivers have to pick a braking point for turn 13.

Sector 3

Braking from 200mph again, getting the braking right is key for the tight right, left chicane of 13 and 14, separated by a short squirt under a bridge.

A curving straight splits a sequence of two chicanes with turns 15 and 16 a left, right combination where drivers will be taking as much kerb as possible to straighten what is a quite open second chicane.

Another short straight leads upto two 90-degree right-handers to complete the lap, traction is key particularly exiting the final turn 18 back onto the long main straight and completing a lap of the Sochi Autodrom.

Hopefully the F1 2014 video of the circuit will explain the circuit in a more visual way, but with Mercedes tweeting an average speed of just under 130mph expected, it will be a high-speed chase around a venue that has seen plenty of sporting drama already in 2014.

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