Russia’s Formula 1 track isn’t a fan favourite, but the Sochi Autodrom is a challenging circuit to drive. Albeit perhaps not for the right reasons.
Officially, this is classified as a street circuit, so there aren’t any gravel traps to swallow your car if you go off the circuit, but track limits are strictly enforced.
Sochi has hosted the Russian Grand Prix since its inception in 2014 and the circuit has remained unchanged in that time. Despite the pair of long straights, overtaking isn‘t easy here and with low tyre wear, qualifying is extremely important around the track. Good one lap pace is vital to positive race result, and this guide will walk you through the track, corner by corner.
The first corner of Sochi is a flatout kink to the right, which easy to round, even with DRS open. The first braking zone is going into Turn 2, where you’ll be arriving at almost 210 mph (338 kph) and need to brake just before the 100m board down into third gear.
Run the right-front over the red and white inside kerbing and do the same for Turn 3, but be sure to avoid the orange sausage kerb for the latter corner. It’s easy to cut and track extend around this track, but as long as you don’t take much more than a wheel’s width, you should be fine.
As this corner follows a DRS zone and the longest straight on the circuit, it’s the main overtaking spot on the track. If you didn’t manage to complete an overtake into Turn 2, you can get a move done through Turns 4 and 5, as Lewis Hamilton demonstrated last year. This is a hard one to pull off, though, as you have to go off line, although this does give you the inside line going into Turn 5.
Turn 4 is a 180-degree high-speed left-hander, the most thrilling on the circuit, but an easy flat, these days. Start wide and turn towards the apex of the corner so that at half way, you’ll kissing the inside kerbs and stay there until Turn 5.
Turn 5 completes this complex and you have to make sure you brake in a straight line to avoid locking up. Brake at 100m down into fourth gear and get as close to the inside kerbing as possible, but don’t touch it, as it can send you wide on exit. Don’t run wide on exit, either, as it costs you a lot of time due to the lower grip levels out there.
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Turn 6 is the first of many 90-degree corners in Sochi. Brake at about 80m down to fourth gear and get as close to outside kerbing on entry, but don’t run the left-front tyre over it. Run the right-front over the red and white inside kerbing and avoid all of the kerbs on the exit.
You might think this is an overtaking spot, but it’s not a long enough straight to get close to try a move. Don’t cut the corner, either, corner cutting is punished with a lap invalidation here. Running wide isn‘t punished as a penalty, but it will cost you time.
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Turns 7 & 8
Turns 7 and 8 are effectively a double right-hander, but the first is easy flat, like Turn 1. You’ll be braking slightly off-line, so don’t slam the brakes on fully. Brake at the 50m board down into fourth gear and put the pedal to the metal as soon as you reach the apex, there’s plenty of traction here.
Avoid all of the kerbing here, as corner cutting and track extension penalties are common here.
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Turns 9 & 10
Turns 9 and 10 are a double left-hander, almost a mirror image of Turns 7 and 8. There’s no brake marker board here, but you need to brake when revving out sixth gear or when the Rolex hoarding above begins to disappear in T-cam view.
Shift down to fifth gear and take plenty of kerb on entry, you can get away with all four wheels off the circuit here. This gives you the optimum line and allows you to accelerate fully through T10 and avoid the run-off on the outside.
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Turns 11 & 12
Turn 11 is very important to nail, as a DRS zone quickly follows the corner. Brake at the 100m board down to fourth gear and take plenty of inside kerb as you did for 9, but not all four wheels off the circuit.
Get on the power as soon as you’re on the apex, it’s a fast corner so you shouldn’t have any issues with traction. Turn 12 is gentle right kink, that’s a corner only in name, as you hardly notice it being there.
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Turn 13 is another left-handed kink, but Turn 14 is a heavy braking zone. You need to hug the inside kerbing of T13 to make the line you brake on as straight as possible. Brake at the 150m board down into third gear and don’t slam the peddle down, being gentler on the brakes is the key here.
T14 is one of the hardest on the calendar on the front axle, as you’re braking while turning after a DRS straight, locking up is very common here.
You can overtake here, but doing so is like threading the eye of a needle, there’s such little room off-line, you usually have to get the move done before the braking zone. As Carlos Sainz found out in 2015, getting this corner wrong can have disastrous consequences.
Turn 15 is a 90-degree left-hander that you need to squirt the throttle before lifting and staying in third gear around it. Only get back on the throttle again once you’ve stopped turning, it’s very easy to run wide here, and track extensions are common. Be sure to run the car over the red and white kerbing on entry, as well.
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Turns 16 & 17
There’s no marker board for Turn 16, but you need to brake shortly after going into sixth gear or when the crane on the right-hand side of the track disappears from view in T-cam. Brake down into third gear and run the left-front over the inside kerbing.
Accelerate between the corners before lifting for Turn 17 when you start turning and then hammering the throttle down once you’re past the apex. Use plenty of exit kerb, even some of the green grasscrete on exit.
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Turns 18 & 19
Turns 18 and 19 are two 90-degree right-handers to conclude the lap. Again, no brake markers to find here, but I tend to brake when revving out sixth gear or when the electronic marshalls board disappears from view in T-cam view.
Brake down to fourth gear and run the right-front over the red and white kerbs on the inside. Avoid the kerbing on exit and stick to the left side of the track for T19.
Brake down to third gear for the final corner and cut plenty of the inside kerbs, but don’t hit the bollard, you’ll get a penalty for that. Whatever you do, don’t run wide, as the run-off stops abruptly, and you’ll lose time, even if you don’t go onto the grass.
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You need as low downforce as possible for good top speed down the two long straights, but also high enough wing angles to be able to fly around the 90-degree left and right-handers. I went with 3 on the front and 7 on the rear, as the rear feels really planted, especially in qualifying.
Tyre wear isn’t an issue here, a 1-stop with softs and mediums is easily achievable. Traction isn’t the easiest to find here, as there are some harsh acceleration zones around the lap. I went with 75% on-throttle diff and a fully locked on-throttle diff, at 100%
Again, as tyre wear is low, you can get away with very low toe and camber angles, get as close as you can to full right, full left. You’ll be using the kerbs a lot round here, but none of them are too harsh, so you can get away with slightly firmer springs. I went with 4/3 for the front and rear suspension.
There are a few high-speed direction changes, so the anti-roll bar has to be firm, I went with 11/6 on the front and rear. Finally, with regards to the suspension, the ride height should be the normal values of 3/4 on the front and rear.
There are some big stops around the lap, so the brake pressure needs to be very high at 90%, or as close as you can get to that value without locking up. The brake bias should be at 53% to the front.
Lastly, the tyre pressures should be a little lower than normal, as despite the low wear, it is easy to overheat your rubber. I went with 23.0psi on the fronts and 20.7psi on the rear.
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