[EN] Russian GP: Race Pace Analysis [FP2]
Sochi will host its penultimate Russian Grand Prix this weekend, as the Formula One circus will travel to Saint Petersburg in 2023 to race at the Circuit Igora Drive.
The Sochi Autodrom is famous for the abundance of 90-degree turns and its very smooth, recently resurfaced tarmac, which makes for low levels of grip. That is why Pirelli has brought out their softest range of tyres (C5 for Softs, C4 for Medium and C3 for Hard) for this weekend at the Russian Grand Prix. The circuit has not been used in over a year, unlike some other European tracks like Spa and Monza. The cars will require good levels of traction and mechanical grip to avoid overheating issues on the rear tyres, especially with the tricky slow speeds of Sector 3.
The Russian Grand Prix has proven over the years that overtaking around this track is not always easy, but teams Mercedes and Red Bull might be able to progress through the field without issues due to their pace advantage. This will be the challenge on Sunday for both Verstappen and Leclerc, who will be sharing the last row at the back of the grid due to changing their Power Units today. The additional 3-place grid penalty Verstappen was given after the crash with Lewis Hamilton in Monza places him behind the Ferrari driver, in P20.
Red Bull revealed that the weather forecast for this weekend was a factor considered in taking the decision to change their lead driver’s Power Unit, as tomorrow’s Qualifying session might be cancelled due to severe conditions or postponed to Sunday morning.
For this reason, this afternoon’s Free Practice session turned into a mockup Qualifying session in the first half; results from FP2 will be used to decide the Sunday grid should it be impossible to have an additional session before the Race. Luckily for us, we could still observe some long runs especially in the second half, despite the interruption of a Red Flag brought out by Antonio Giovinazzi who lost the rear of his Alfa Romeo in Turn 8, and crashed into the barriers.
RACE PACE ANALYSIS FP2
Mercedes look, as always, at home in Sochi. Fast from the get-go in FP1, they continued dominating the timetable in the afternoon, with Bottas marginally faster than his teammate Hamilton. The Finnish driver was the fastest in the race pace simulations on the Medium tyre (1:39.785 average), with Hamilton not far behind with an average of 1:40.308.
Verstappen’s Power Unit change, and the penalty that came with it, meant that Red Bull focused on their race pace straight away this afternoon. On the Medium tyre, the Dutch driver averaged a 1:40.442 (around 7 tenths slower than Bottas’s), with Pérez even slower with an average of 1:40.822 – however traffic hindered both their runs.
Similarly to Verstappen, Leclerc focused his work in FP2 on the race pace simulations – but still gave his teammate a tow for the qualifying runs. Ferrari will keep an eye on the comparison between Sainz and Leclerc, as the Monégasque’s Power Unit comes with an upgrade on the ERS which should give him a performance boost compared to Sainz on the old specification. Leclerc’s lap times were fairly good on the Hard compound (1:40.618 average), just behind Vettel’s Aston Martin. After the Red Flag, the driver switched to a set of Medium tyres, for an 8 lap stint averaging a solid 1:40.425 – which puts him on pace with Verstappen. A positive day for Ferrari overall, even as Sainz couldn’t complete a full run.
Aston Martin keeps struggling for consistency; the team seems to be unable to find the right compromise between race and qualifying pace, which would bring them closer to Ferrari and McLaren. Sebastian Vettel looked fairly good in the race pace simulations, as he was able to register the quickest long run on the Hard compound averaging a 1:40.514. Lance Stroll appeared to struggle both in the qualifying and race simulations, where he was half a second slower compared to his teammate – a 1:41.268 average on the Hard compound, the slowest of the bunch.
Author: Toni Sokolov
Editing: Sara Esposito