Niki Lauda appears to be doing his best to drum up interest in the coming Russian GP. Despite the recent dominant performance by Mercedes in Japan, Lauda is concerned the Sochi weekend could be a repeat for Mercedes of the weekend in Singapore.
“My worry is this next race at Sochi has Singapore-type asphalt,” observed the Mercedes chairman.
Lauda also knows Pirelli have decided to bring the super-soft and soft tyre to Russia, the same compounds as used in Singapore 2015. There the super-soft tyre with its narrow operating window saw Mercedes unable to control the tyre temperatures and were some 1.5 seconds a lap off the pace of Ferrari.
Whilst Sochi has just 18 corners to Singapore’s 23, the black sea circuit is much quicker and so the tyres again have little time to ‘rest’.
At the 2015 Russian GP, Rosberg was able to complete the entire race distance bar one lap on a single set of medium tyres. However, any new asphalt surface tends to see the oils in the mix rise to the surface for a number of months after being laid. This meant the abrasion levels were low but grip was high.
Paul Hembery explained, “It might be a case that it was freshly laid, there were certain ingredients coming out, providing or assisting with an adhesive grip on a smooth surface, and that was why the performance was improving.”
It may well be this year the grip is much lower and therefore the tyres will slide around more, giving the teams a harder time in calculating strategy for the race.
Despite Lauda’s concern, with rain forecast all weekend at present in Sochi, temperatures lower than in 2014 – for now it’s a finger in the air for all the teams as to how the tyres and their cars will perform.
Mercedes require just 3 points more than Ferrari in Sochi to wrap up the 2015 constructors’ title.