The Sochi street circuit is a power hungry beast. In the six years F1 has raced there Mercedes has won, proving that a strong power unit is vital. However, this is no Monza. There are plenty of slow corners and technical sections that require a precise set up that can get the car into corners well and carry speed through to the next lengthy straight. So how should you set your car up?
As much as we'd like to trim all the wing down for those long straights, you simply can't do it due to the winding middle sector and tight final sector. A 5-5 setup keeps the car exceptionally stable through the long left hander of turn 4 as well as getting it into all the slower corners. All this drag is not optimal for the straights, but you will struggle to post a good delta through sector 2 if you remove more wing angle.
We have gone conservative with our differential setup to try and preserve tyre life. The 75 on throttle differential is the default setting and nicely balances traction and tyre wear, while unlocking the off throttle differential just helps the car rotate into corners by allowing the rear wheels to rotate more freely when we aren't on the throttle at turn in.
This part of the setup describes how the tyres are aligned with the car. Camber is the vertical alignment of the wheels, and all F1 cars are set with negative camber, meaning that the top of the tyres are closer to the body of the car than the bottom of them. This helps with cornering grip, which is something we very much want to improve. Adding too much camber can heavily impact tyre wear though, so we have added just a touch to the front and rears to help us carry speed through the corners.
Toe is the horizontal alignment, with front tyres set to toe out, so that the leading edge is further away than the rear edge, while rear tyres have the opposite setting. We have added a click of toe to both the fronts and the rears. This helps responsiveness at turn in and stability down the straights, but at the cost of a little tyre wear.
The suspension is where we create a stable car. But setting the springs to 8-4 we prevent forward weight transfer under braking, which negates some understeer, and allow rearward transfer under acceleration, aiding traction.
We have an 8-6 setting on the anti-roll bars to help us get the car into the chicanes at the end of the lap. These slow corners require quick changes of direction, so having a stiffer front anti-roll bar means the weight is more central at the front, making it more responsive.
Finally ride height. This is set to 4-4. We have enough responsiveness in the car not to need a rake effect, but we ride a lot of kerbs through Sochi so going lower risks us bottoming out.
Brake pressure is set to 85 percent to help us slow the car down into turn 2 and turn 14, the big braking zones after DRS that are also the major overtaking points of the lap. Turn 14 especially is a big lockup risk coming as it does quickly after the left kink of turn 13, so we can't set the pressures much higher than this otherwise we'll end up in the barriers.
Brake bias is set rearward to 57 percent to help preserve some life in the front tyres and also make turn in a little easier.
Our front tyre pressures are increased slightly, letting us use some of the life we have preserved elsewhere to make a more responsive car on turn in. Meanwhile, we have taken some air away from the rear tyres to provide more traction out of the slow final corner.
Weight distribution is set to 7. This again helps with traction and acceleration, and is really the best position for the ballast at all but a few tracks.
So there is our setup for the Russian Grand Prix. It isn't the ultimate time trial or qualifying setup, but with the hyper- and ultra-softs available for the race it will allow you to one-stop in all but the 100 percent race distance. See you on the time sheets!
Russian Grand Prix Wet Lap Setup
Front Wing: 4
Rear Wing: 8
On Throttle: 70%
Off Throttle: 75%
Front Camber: -2.70
Rear Camber: -1.20
Front Toe: 0.08
Rear Toe: 0.29
Front Suspension: 4
Rear Suspension: 4
Front Anti-Roll Bar: 9
Rear Anti-Roll Bar: 7
Front Ride Height: 3
Rear Ride Height: 4
Brake Pressure: 85%
Front Brake Bias: 55%
Front Tyre Pressure: 23.4 psi
Rear Tyre Pressure: 21.1 psi