RUSSIAN GP: what to expect from the Ferrari SF70H

Written by @spontonc e @SmilexTech - Translated by Federico Marchi

Sochi. Russia. After a Grand Prix on a circuit that was considered as more favorable to the Ferrari SF70H, we are now going to a track that could be deemed as more adapt to the characteristics of the Mercedes W08 EQPower. A Mercedes that in these three races provided solid performances in Quali, but that always struggled a bit during the race (click here to read more about the problems of the Mercedes W08) mostly on Low Working Range tyres and with a lot of fuel.

RUSSIAN GP: a track that cannot “breach” the hearts of the fans
The track, 5.853 meters long, is the third of the 2017 Formula 1 championship for what concerns length, preceded by the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium and that of Silverstone in Great Britain. It was designed by Hermann Tilke as well as many other tracks introduced in Formula 1 since 1999. It has 12 right-hand corners and only 6 left. If the first sector can be considered as the fastest of the track, the second and especially the third are far more technical both for drivers and cars. The 90° third-gear corners predominate, with high and steep curbs that solicit tyres and aerodynamic appendixes.

Introduced in Formula 1 calendar only in 2014, the construction of the Sochi Olympic Park Circuit is the conclusion of the program that wanted the return of the Russian Grand Prix in F1, after the rejected project of a “Soviet Union Grand Prix” in 1983. For now, we appreciated only Mercedes’ wins, thanks also to the supremacy imposed by the German team in the last three years.

The track begins on the northern edge of the Olympic Park near the railway station, goes down towards "Medals Plaza", where the consignment of the medals in 2014 has been made. It goes on towards the east side at the Bolshoy Ice Dome where a series of narrow curves twist and turn before turning to north where it runs along the Olympic Park, upon the olympic village and the Adler Arena Skating Center. It passes through the Sochi Olympic Skating Centre and the Ice Cube Curling center to finish with a 180 degrees corner.

What happened last year? Rosberg is on pole, and starts well. Raikkonen gets immediately the 2nd position. Kvyat crashes again into Vettel and forces him to retire. Hamilton starts 10th due to some issues occurred to the ERS, but by making the most of other drivers’ errors and misfortunes manages to reach the 5th position. Rosberg creates a gap lap after lap without many troubles; Hamilton, thanks to the superiority of his car, gets in the end the 2nd position. Raikkonen ends on the podium, 3rd.

Here the ITALIAN times:

Free Practice 1: 10:00-11:30 
Free Practice 2: 14:00 - 15:30
Free Practice 3: 11:00 - 12:00
Qualifying: 14:00 - 15:00
Race: 14:00

RUSSIAN GP: Pirelli bring the UltraSoft in Sochi
The compounds chosen by Pirelli for the next Grand Prix are softer than those used for the same GP last year. The UltraSoft will be the Quali compound while the SuperSoft and the Soft those used during the race. As already happened in Australia the choice of the number of sets has been entirely made by Pirelli: every Team will have 2 sets of Softs, 4 sets of SuperSofts and 7 sets of UltraSofts available.

We said it many times: in this first part of the season Mercedes are suffering particularly the new Low Working Range compounds. In Sochi two of the three types of tyres available have this characteristic: the UltraSofts and SuperSofts. However, the Russian track will not be as demanding as the circuit of Sakhir in this sense. This could help Mercedes in avoiding an excessive overheating of the rear tyres.

RUSSIAN GP: sunny and hot weather with temperatures over 20 degrees
For what concerns weather it will not be a tricky weekend, since drivers and teams will enjoy three sunny days. The environmental temperatures will be around 22°C. On Sunday, the race day, the maximum temperature will reach 25°C. The track, having a quite new asphalt, tends to warm up pretty  rapidly (last year, for instance, track temperatures were 20°C higher than the environmental ones) leading so to asphalt temperatures over 30°C.
These temperatures are going to be more or less aligned to those already encountered in Australia and Bahrain.

RUSSIAN GP: what to expect from the Ferrari SF70H
Ferrari land in Russia after having gained the leadership of both constructors and drivers standings. This track will, undoubtedly, confirm the excellent performance shown by the SF70H in this first part of the championship. Win here will not be for sure easy, but the Italian team will certainly be in the first positions. Unlike latest seasons, the car is competitive on every track (mainly during race). The Russian circuit, has always been a tough one for Ferrari, and has always highlighted the gap between them and Mercedes: problems to the hybrid part of the engine, poor traction, lack of downforce in the 2nd-3rd sector and troubles in the management of tyres. These things has now became the main strengths of the car. 

The main strength of the SF70H is the management of tyres.
We said it many times, the real surprise and the real advantage over competitors of the Ferrari SF70H is the way in which the car exploits the maximum potential of these new tyres. Very surprising is the fact that, even when Vettel and Raikkonen are behind other cars, they are able to get close without relevant problems thanks to the ability of tyres to remain in the correct window of functioning. As Ferrari also HaasF1, Toro Rosso and partially Williams has been able to develop this important characteristic on their cars. Mercedes and Renault, for example, proved to have potential in the single lap, while struggling on the rear during the race. Their tyres slip too much, causing an excessive overheating and consequently a lose of grip.

In Sochi, we are going probably to see a 1 pit stop race with top teams using the UltraSofts in the first stint and the Softs in the second. On the softest compound, from what we saw in these first three races, Ferrari, with race setup, could be the favorite, while the same thing cannot be said on the yellow compound. This type of tyres do not create many problems to the Mercedes W08 and in Bahrain, mainly on the car of Hamilton, they demonstrated great performance and constancy.

Very important are the MGU-K and the MGU-H: on the SF70H we did not see any clipping
The hybrid system, as already said above, will be very much stressed. Seb and Kimi, can however count, on a completely new MGU-H and MGU-K given that they have been substituted during the weekend in Bahrain. In Sochi, having new components with few kilometers accumulated can be an advantage. This advantage can however, over time, turn into a problem because of the new rules introduced from this season (only 4 substitutions are allowed). Mercedes, unlike Ferrari, is yet using the same components of the first race in Australia.

The SF70H, from what we saw in China and Bahrain, seems to have also improved in the recovery and use of electricity, with respect to the SF16H (last year one of the main problems of the car was indeed the one of clipping). This implies the correct dimensioning of the turbocharger and a very good recover of energy through the MGU-H that, this season, has become even more important than the last season.

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