The Russian Grand Prix is one of the newest circuits on the calendar, with only two races to it’s name. The new Tilke-dromes have a reputation for producing stale racing, but let’s look at what you, the jury thought of the race.
2014 – TJ13 reader score – 2.54
Well, it could not have been much worse in your view at the Russian Grand Prix in 2014. When I declared last time out in Japan that the 2015 edition was the worst in three years, I had clearly been so bored by the 2014 Russian Grand Prix that my brain had selectively deleted the memory that it had ever happened, so I apologise unresevedly for this… Naughty brain…
But who can blame me? – you described the race as “plodding”, “bland” and “ridiculous”. Nico Rosberg killed the race in one foul swoop as he overcooked his braking into the second corner, locking both his front wheels sailing wide. He retained his position but the flat-spots on the tyres meant he headed straight for the pitlane, taking on the harder tyres for the rest of the dreary race distance. He had to manage the tyres whilst being aggressive. To his credit he pulled some excellent moves including passing Valterri Bottas’ quick Williams to come back to second position, but this only served to once again show the true dominance of the 2014 Mercedes car.
Paul was so bored he even decided to calculate the championship standings as if the Mercedes cars did not even exist… with Ricciardo (235) leading a tight fight with Bottas (210), Vettel (200) and Alonso (179). I also enjoyed the ramblings of “Still I surprise…” who decided to get as many words starting with the letter #P into his race review as possible.
2015 – TJ13 reader score – 5.85
The second time out in Russia was a much more interesting affair, even if the battle at the front was once again short-lived. Nico Rosberg had the measure of Hamilton in qualifying and this time managed to hold the Briton behind him for the first few laps, before another stroke of bad luck with reliability confined him to the back of the garage, with his scowling yet forlorn face providing a window into the mind of a man facing up to the enormity of the task ahead.
The safety car driver Bernd Maylander took to the front of the pack for a couple of stints to resolve the aftermath of some big accidents. The first lap ended in tears as Hulkenberg lost control on the power and spun, clipping and puncturing Verstappen’s tyre. As he pirouetted he was collected by Ericsson who seemed remarkably unable to avoid smacking in to the his side, the two ended up in a remarkably neatly tessellated arrangement. The second stint for the Mercedes GT S pace car started as Romain Grosjean lost control in the aerodynamic wash behind Button through the long turn three, skidding on the marbles and slamming into the barriers in a spectacular accident.
The second of these safety car periods opened up some interesting strategy options and Sergio Perez took full advantage. He dived for the pits, leaving him with 41 laps to run until the end of the race. This is the situation where Perez has a truly world class talent and expertly nursed his tyres like a newborn child, having just enough grip towards the end to have a chance to battle for the podium. It was a battle he had fought valiantly but ultimately had lost to Bottas and Raikkonen in the dying laps and looked set for fifth. That was until Kimi decided to spear his countryman in a somewhat optimistic move into turn four, taking them both out of the runnning. Even the intense heat from the sparks on the way back to the pits were not enough to melt the Iceman…
Driver of the weekend – Sergio Perez
It was this stellar performance from the Mexican that earned him the accolade of driver of the weekend, with 38% of the vote. He has already confirmed his seat for 2016 with Force India and his increased confidence will be of great comfort to him going into his home double header races of the USA and Mexico.
It is worth mentioning Carlos Sainz, who started in 20th place after his horrifying practice crash. Despite being buried under the barriers and spending time in hospital, he emerged on Sunday morning fighting fit and ready to go. He made impressive progress through the field and with an excellently aggressive drive found himself deep in the points in seventh position, chasing down an even greater result. Unfortunately his front brakes suddenly started overheating and eventually decided to give up in a shower of sparks just before the end. These are the sorts of performances he needs to secure his future with the team, if they are still here next year.