When you wish
upon a star

It’s rather an anonymous track, as flat as an airport runway and without any real bends except for the famous Turn 3 which some people have (rather generously) compared to the legendary super-fast and ultra-tough Turn 8 at the Istanbul circuit, which quit Formula 1® a few years ago. This year’s race will be the fourth in Sochi, following the circuit’s F1® debut in October 2014.

So that leads us neatly to an important difference. These days, the race is held in spring, after two editions in autumn. Not that it makes much difference to the conditions: Sochi, and more specifically the venue of Adler (which was home to most facilities for the 2014 Olympic Games and now also the circuit) is situated on the shores of the Black Sea and benefits from temperate weather similar to an eternal spring. For the ski competitions of the Winter Olympics, you had to climb the slopes of the mountains behind the town where, as tourist posters proclaim, you can ski into late May. For grand prix drivers, there’s a different type of sliding. As has been well documented, the surface is not very abrasive, with low degradation. And that means that the winning strategy has always been a one-stopper; up to now at least. This year though it might be different, with faster, wider and more aggressive cars.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the Russian Grand Prix was tailor-made for Mercedes. In fact, no other team has ever won in Russia. And that’s no doubt down to the aerodynamic prowess of the German machine, as well as the qualities of its engine. Some credit should however also go... to history. The fact that the first modern-day Russian Grand Prix was held in 2014 is no coincidence. It was chosen to celebrate the centenary of the second (and up to then last) Grand Prix held in Russia. The race was held at a circuit in Saint Petersburg twice, in 1913 and 1914. International teams and drivers took part, but Mercedes won both times. The first year, a Russian driver, Georgy Suvorin, claimed the honours. In 1914, it was the German Willy Scholl. The race was suspended due to the First World War breaking out, which was followed by the Russian civil war, leading to the birth of the Soviet Union, which lasted over 70 years. And so, destiny was forged under a star. The legendary red star, one of the many Soviet symbols. And the three-pointed star of Mercedes. Will history change this year

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