Russian GP: Preview – Pirelli

The hypersoft – the fastest and softest tyre in the Pirelli Formula 1 range, which has broken lap records at every race it visits – now comes to Russia, in combination with the ultrasoft and soft. This is the same nomination as Singapore, with a ‘step’ between the compounds, because the supersoft is missed out. This should again have the effect of opening up the strategy possibilities by ensuring quite a wide but equally spaced performance gap between the compounds. However, with Russia being a very different type of track to Singapore, there will be many unpredictable elements still to discover from the weekend.

The Sochi circuit was well-known for being very smooth and slippery when it made its debut in 2014, but since then the asphalt has matured – albeit not quite as much as expected, due to the extremes of temperature between summer and winter in Sochi.

The race returns to an autumn date, as it was up until 2016.

Wear and degradation levels are generally low, but the hypersoft is effectively two steps softer than the softest compound brought to Russia last year: the 2017 ultrasoft.

Last year’s winning strategy was a one-stopper: Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas took his first-ever victory in Formula 1 by going from the ultrasoft to the supersoft on lap 27.

The most demanding corner, which takes the most out of the tyres, is Turn 3: a multi-apex left-hander.

The front-right tyre works hardest over the course of the 5.848-kilometre lap, which puts the emphasis on traction and braking.

Mario Isola: “With another step between the compounds and the same nominations as Singapore, we hope to see the same sort of strategic variations that we had at the last race, but in a very different context at the Sochi circuit. This is a low severity track, with a smooth surface featuring low wear and degradation, and it’s in theory the ideal playing field for the hypersoft. However, as this tyre has never been run in Russia before, the teams are going to have to understand its characteristics as quickly as possible during the free practice sessions in order to see how it would fit into a potential race strategy. It’s going to be interesting to see how the Pink hypersoft will work on this track, especially through the demanding Turn 3.”