The Sochi International Street Circuit is similar to Canada's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in that it will run around a venue used for Olympic competition; in this case, the Sochi Olympic Park site, scene of the 2014 Winter Olympics.
The inaugural race will take place in October 2014, the first year of a seven-year contract agreed on October 14, 2010, between Bernie Ecclestone and OJSC Centre Omega in the presence of Vladimir Putin in Sochi.
The Sochi circuit marks the end of a thirty-year campaign for a Russian Grand Prix, with plans for a 'Grand Prix of the Soviet Union' originating as early as 1983 before being abandoned for "bureaucratic reasons" and several failed attempts in the intervening years.
The 3.633 miles (5.848 km) circuit will be the third-longest circuit on the Formula One calendar, behind Spa-Francorchamps and Silverstone and is built around the Sochi Olympic Park 'coastal cluster', a collection of venues for the 2014 Winter Olympics that will host ice hockey, speed skating and the stadium for the opening and closing ceremonies. The track surface will not be laid until after the Closing Ceremony of the Olympics.
The circuit will start on the northern edge of the Olympic Park near the train station, running down to the cemetery, then around central 'medals plaza', the podium for Olympic medals presentations. The circuit will circle the plaza and head east to the Bolshoi Ice Dome and navigate a series of tight corners before turning north where it will skirt the edge of the Olympic Park, above the main Olympic Village and the Adler Arena Skating Centre. It will then pass the skating and curling centres, before funnelling up behind the pit paddock toward the train station, and completing a circuit with a one hundred and eighty degree bend. Some 1.1 mile (1.7 km) of the circuit length takes place on public roads.
"The circuit is going to be very fast and technical and offers a number of interesting features," said Hermann Tilke, who helped design the track. "It is a fantastic facility with a great atmosphere and it will be outstanding as the circuit will run through the Olympic Park. I am very optimistic about the future of the unique race track in Sochi and am looking forward to a triumphant start of Formula 1 in Russia."
Fast Facts - Provided by the FIA
2018 marked the fifth FIA Formula One World Championship Russian Grand Prix. The race appeared on the calendar in 2014 and each race has been held at the Sochi Autodrom.
Mercedes have a clean sweep of victories - albeit with three different drivers. Lewis Hamilton won the race in 2014 and 2015, Nico Rosberg took victory in 2016 and Valtteri Bottas won last year.
Mercedes have taken three of the four pole positions in Russia to date. Hamilton was on pole for the inaugural event in 2014, and Rosberg had back-to-back poles in 2015 and 2016. Sebastian Vettel broke the chain last year, starting from P1 for Ferrari. The race was won from pole position in 2014 and 2016, from second in 2015 and from third on the grid in 2017.
Ferrari have two of the four fastest laps at this circuit, thanks to Vettel in 2015 and Kimi Raikkonen last year. Bottas set the fastest lap at the inaugural race, driving for Williams, and Rosberg did so in 2016, as part of a dominant performance that saw him take pole, victory and fastest lap while leading every lap of the race. It was the first time Rosberg had achieved a socalled 'grand chelem', though he would do it again seven weeks later in Baku. His is the only such performance recorded in Sochi.
Mercedes have taken half the podium spots available at this race. In addition to their four wins, the Brackley-based team took second place in 2014 with Rosberg and 2016 with Hamilton. Ferrari have four podiums, with Vettel second in 2015 and 2017, and Raikkonen third in 2016 and 2017. The two other podiums have both gone to Mercedes-powered teams: Williams took third place in 2014 with Bottas, while Force India was third in 2015 courtesy of Sergio Perez. Hamilton's second place in 2016 came from P10 on the grid - the furthest back from which a driver finishing on the podium has started.
Nine of the current field have contested every Russian Grand Prix: they are Bottas; Marcus Ericsson; Romain Grosjean; Hamilton; Nico Hülkenberg; Perez; Raikkonen; Daniel Ricciardo and Vettel. Of these, Hamilton, Raikkonen and Perez are the only drivers to score in every race and Ericsson is the only one not to score at any. Fernando Alonso has qualified for each race but retired on the formation lap last year with an ERS failure.
Underlining the reputation of the Russian Grand Prix as a one-stop race, only four from 40 points scorers have done so making two stops, and no two-stopper has finished higher than fifth.
Of the four drivers starting their first F1 race at the Sochi Autodrom this weekend, Sergey Sirotkin is the most familiar with the circuit. The Russian has been a test driver in Friday practice three times, appearing for Sauber in 2014 and Renault in 2016 and 2017 - albeit failing to set a time last year. He has also raced here in GP2, in 2015, finishing fourth in the feature race. Pierre Gasly raced in GP2 in 2014 and 2015, finishing second in 2015. Brendon Hartley and Charles Leclerc are making their Sochi debuts.