Round fifteen of the 2015 Formula One season will be fought at the Sochi Autodrom. Based on the Black Sea’s coast, it was also the home of the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Formula One has only come here once before, but it provided many talking points afterwards. With only five races left in the calendar, including this one, what can we expect?
Five things to expect from the 2015 Russian Grand Prix
1. Track Surface
Last year’s race’s super smooth track surface, which did not seem to take any degradation from the tyres whatsoever, came as something of a shock. It appeared that the stones beneath the bitumen surface hadn’t cut through, meaning that the track surface was as smooth as a billiard table.
For this year’s race, Pirelli have brought the super soft and soft tyres to the track in the hope that an aggressive tyre choice may provide quicker degradation and perhaps create a two-stop race.
2. Off-Track Politics
While the on-track action is why we watch this fantastic sport, there is plenty going on behind the scenes at this present moment.
Power unit politics have been played up and down the grid, and Manor have secured a deal with Mercedes from 2016 including fully fledged up to date units. Lotus are still running short on money, but it looks like Renault are coming to save the Enstone team.
Red Bull are still adamant they want fully 2016-spec engines from a supplier otherwise they will walk away from Formula One. Ferrari have currently offered 2015 units to the Milton-Keynes squad. But it may not be enough to keep them on the grid.
3. Championship Talk
Mercedes have the opportunity to seal the constructors’ championship this weekend. By outscoring the Prancing Horse by a mere three points, it will seal their second ever constructors’ title.
On the drivers’ side Lewis Hamilton leads Nico Rosberg by 48 points and Sebastian Vettel is 59 points shy. With five races to go Lewis can afford to drive smoothly to a third world title, but that’s not his style. We all know Lewis will drive flat out to get this title sealed. Nico and Sebastian have got their work cut out with so little time left.
4. Power Unit Mileage
The rules stated for the 2015 season that four power units was the limit for the season. This was always going to be a huge undertaking to ensure that reliability would make the distance.
In Monza, Rosberg proved how fragile this could be when his power unit blew after already doing six previous events. Usually this would have been an unheard of scenario.
No-one knows how the final five races will fair for the engine manufacturers, but with Honda and Renault already breaking the rules and taking grid penalties every time they do, it’s only a matter of time before Ferrari and Mercedes begin to worry as to whether they will make the season on four power units, if they aren’t doing so already.
5. Driver Market Talk
In the past week Romain Grosjean was confirmed to be the first driver announced for the new Haas team entering the 2016 season.
Currently, there are four unconfirmed seats left for next season: one at Lotus after Grosjean’s departure, one more at Haas and both Manor seats. There is plenty of speculation that DTM title contender and Mercedes test driver Pascal Wehrlein may take a seat at Manor due to the Mercedes power unit deal.
It is unknown who will take these remaining seats, but I’m sure we’ll continue to hear more as the weekend rolls on.