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2021 Formula One Russian Grand Prix preview: Tight title fight continues

Formula One heads to the Sochi Autodrom in Russia this weekend for round 15 of the 2021 season.

The Russian Grand Prix is held annually at the Black Sea town of Sochi and is a race that typically doesn’t throw up any surprises.

It’s held at the Sochi Autodrom which is a street circuit that winds its way through the former site of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, taking in the Sochi Medals Plaza and the Bolshoy Ice Dome. The layout was devised by renowned German racetrack architect Herman Tilke and measures 3.63 miles in length.

It’s made up of a combination of long straights and sweeping hairpins plus some slow 90-degree turns, and has a track surface that’s been steadily maturing since the asphalt was originally laid nearly a decade ago. The first Russian race was only held in 2014.

Sochi Autodrom, home of the Formula One Russian Grand Prix

Sochi Autodrom, home of the Formula One Russian Grand Prix

Pirelli has nominated its three softest compounds for the weekend: P Zero White hard (C3), P Zero Yellow medium (C4), and P Zero Red soft (C5). This is the same nomination that was made in Russia last season, when the event was held at a similar time of year.

This year, we may also see some wet weather as light rain is forecast for both Saturday’s qualifying session and Sunday’s race. Teams normally run a one-stop strategy in Russia.

After the initial practice on Friday, Mercedes-Benz AMG’s Valtteri Bottas was the fastest, ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was the fourth fastest. He was running a new power unit, though the introduction has triggered a grid penalty that will force him to start from the back of the grid.

Going into the weekend, Verstappen leads the 2021 Drivers’ Championship with 226.5 points versus the 221.5 of Hamilton in second. Bottas is a distant third with 141 points. In the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes leads with 362.5 points versus the 344.5 of Red Bull and 215 of McLaren. Last season’s winner in Russia was Bottas, driving for Mercedes.

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