Russian Grand Prix: PreviewSeptember 21, 2021
A look ahead to the Russian Grand Prix, as Formula 1 returns to Sochi.
Uralkali Haas F1 Team is geared up for Round 15 of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship, the Russian Grand Prix, at Sochi Autodrom.
Formula 1 first ventured to Russia in 2014, with the roads around the stadia used for the Winter Olympics converted into a semi-permanent racetrack, known as Sochi Autodrom. The 5.8km circuit, located alongside the Black Sea, features an abundance of off-camber 90-degree corners linked by full-throttle sections, while its infrequent use means there is a high track evolution across the course of the weekend.
The close proximity of the walls also adds to the challenge while the long run down to the first heavy braking zone at turn two, and tight nature of the complex, means first-lap skirmishes are commonplace. The circuit’s centerpiece is the long-radius negatively cambered turn four, an acceleration zone that bends 180 degrees around the flag-lined Medals Plaza, taking almost 10 seconds to negotiate from entry to exit.
Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher have prior experience of the Sochi Autodrom. Mazepin, a native of Russia, finished on the podium during previous visits in the GP3 Series in 2018 and Formula 2 championship in 2020. Schumacher’s first taste of Sochi Autodrom in 2020 resulted in an emphatic Formula 2 Feature Race victory while a podium in the Sprint Race the next day put him firmly within reach of a title he went on to clinch.
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal of Uralkali Haas F1 Team
After a fairly grueling triple-header to kick start the second half of Formula 1’s 2021 season – how did the team get through it and how does past experience help you guide personnel through the demands of such a schedule?
“Everybody was tired after the triple-header which is very demanding as we found out, and even after the summer break it was still tough for everybody. These things, you just have to work through them and try to keep the team motivated and try to give them a few days off in-between when it is possible, so at least they can chill out for a few days but there is no magic to it. It’s trying to have them see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
You managed to spend time at the team’s Maranello design office before the Italian Grand Prix along with team owner Gene Haas. What was his take on the work going into the VF-22 and the team’s push towards the 2022 campaign? Is there a more streamlined approach to the design process with the new base?
“These are the things that keep me and the whole team going – the future. Going there with Gene, he hasn’t been in Italy for three years, due to COVID-19 he couldn’t come for the last few years, so I showed him around and how we’ve changed over, how we’ve organized ourselves and how Simone is leading the group. I think he was happy with what he saw, and again he looks forward to 2022 like all of us. I think we will be ready. Where we end up, I don’t know yet but for sure we will make steps forward.”
Obviously, the Russian Grand Prix is a home race for Nikita Mazepin. Have you spoken to Nikita about the excitement of competing in your first home race as an F1 driver and any extra pressure it potentially brings? Having witnessed the ‘Max Factor’ at Zandvoort recently, do you feel it adds an extra dimension for the crowd to have a home driver to root for?
“I haven’t spoken with Nikita yet about it but obviously when I get there I will speak to him, if he’s got time for me! I’ve seen his schedule and what he’s got to do, only for media, and the attention he gets in Russia it will be quite a demanding weekend for him but hopefully a lot of people support him. Obviously, he’s not racing for the championship like Max is at the moment so the crowd may not be as big for him but I’m sure he has got a lot of fans there and let’s see what they come up with. I am interested myself in how far we can bring Formula 1 in Russia.”
In your opinion, how has the Russian Grand Prix evolved over the years – first as a new F1 territory back in 2014 to present day and with a new circuit in St Petersburg on the agenda for 2023.
“I think Russia is always an interesting race. It’s completely different to anything else in my opinion as a track. People are welcoming there, there is a good vibe in Russia, the organizers always do a good job with it. Somehow, it’s sad that we leave Sochi but somehow, it’s nice that we go to St Petersburg as it’s a new racetrack again. Apparently, it’s a fantastic city – I haven’t been there – but as I always say, I love the historic style, but I also love the new style. I’m sure Sochi wants to do their second to last Grand Prix on a high and the last year on an even higher status. All in all, Sochi is a great place to go to, especially with a Russian driver and hopefully we will have a lot of fans rooting for us.”