Russian Grand Prix: PreviewSeptember 22, 2020
We look ahead the tenth race of the 2020 season, as Formula 1 heads to Russia.
After a trio of triple-headers Formula One has waved a brief farewell to Western Europe and will head to the Caucasian Riviera for the Russian Grand Prix, Round 10 of the 2020 FIA Formula One World Championship.
Grand Prix racing in Russia first took place in the 1910’s in St. Petersburg but it was to be another century before Formula One ventured to the country, when the roads around the stadia used for the 2014 Winter Olympics were converted into a race track to create the Sochi Autodrom.
The smooth 5.8km circuit is the third-longest on the current calendar, behind Spa-Francorchamps and Silverstone, and its infrequent use means there is a high track evolution across the course of the weekend. Long full-throttle sections and 90-degree corners feature prominently while the circuit’s iconic section is the long-radius off-camber turn four which bends 180-degrees around the flag-lined Medals Plaza and takes eight seconds to negotiate from entry to exit.
Romain Grosjean has been an ever-present figure at Formula One’s Russian Grand Prix, scoring a best result of eighth at the 2016 round, which came upon Haas F1 Team’s first visit to the venue. Kevin Magnussen has scored four top 10 finishes in Russia, including a standout fifth on his maiden trip in 2014, a position he repeated in qualifying in 2018. Last year he took home valuable points courtesy of ninth.
The Russian Grand Prix will take place across September 25 to 27, with two 90-minute practice sessions on Friday, final practice and a three-part qualifying hour on Saturday, the results of which set the grid for Sunday’s 53-lap grand prix. Lights out is due for 14:10 local time (07:10 EST/12:10 BST).
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal, Haas F1 Team
The issue of restarts and safety was prevalent after the Tuscan Grand Prix. Having had some time to digest all that happened in the race – what are your thoughts on how events played out and what, if anything, could be done to ensure such incidents are avoided?
“I think it’s just one of those things, the restart line was far down the straight at Mugello – and some people obviously took a chance and tried to have a run at it. I don’t think anybody did anything wrong, I fully agree with that one, it was just circumstances. Going forward, to avoid these things, I think we need to look at where to put the restart line and maybe also think about a restart zone. I’m not an expert in these things, but other series do it like that to avoid these things from happening. I think it’s worthwhile to look into it, but I’m sure it’ll come up on the agenda of the sporting working group.”
The consensus seemed to be that the Mugello circuit was a popular stop on this year’s revised Formula One schedule. Would you like to see some flexibility in Formula One’s calendar with circuits like Mugello rotated into the line-up every couple of years for added variety?
“I don’t know if it’s because it was new it was so exciting, or could it be exciting every year. If you were to rotate them, there could be some of that newness every time we do it. I’m completely for that one. I like change, if you’re always doing the same thing, you always know the outcome of it – it’s much more predictable when you do more of the same. I think it would be great if we could rotate it, if it’s possible commercially, and that’s for Formula One to look into. Seeing what happened at Mugello, I’m now really looking forward to the Nürburgring, Portimao and Imola.”
Looking ahead to the Russian Grand Prix – what does the team need from the VF-20 to attack the characteristics of the Sochi Autodrom? Is there scope, for example, for a sixth appearance in Q2 in qualifying?
“It’s a tough year for us but we’re always trying to do our best. That is our aim at the moment – to get into Q2. That then gets us into a position where if something surprising happens in the race, we can hopefully take some points away from it. At the moment it seems we’re just there to create the surprise for other people. Maybe our luck turns and we get something good out of it at some stage this year.”
Nine races down – eight to go. What’s your take on the 2020 season so-far, and the battle Haas F1 Team finds itself in fighting alongside the likes of Williams and Alfa Romeo? Is there optimism that progress can be made with the VF-20 to emerge ahead of its direct competition by season’s end?
“It will be a tough end to the season, in the same way it was a tough start to the season. We obviously have some deficiencies in our car. We also haven’t brought any upgrades to the car. We are at least fighting every weekend with Alfa and Williams, and I think we can continue to do that for the rest of the season. With a little bit of luck, and some of our own talent, we should hopefully get some points before the season ends.”