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
2017 marks the fourth F1 World Championship Russian Grand Prix. The first event was hosted in 2014, all have been held at the Sochi Autodrom.
Mercedes have dominated, winning all three races. Each has been won by the driver who would go on to be crowned World Champion: Lewis Hamilton in 2014 and 2015, Nico Rosberg last year.
In 2014 and 2016 Mercedes enjoyed 1-2 finishes. Their record is marred by a locked throttle which caused Nico Rosberg to retire when leading in 2015. The other drivers to make the podium are Sebastian Vettel, second in 2015, and third places for Valtteri Bottas, Sergio Pérez and Kimi Räikkönen, respectively in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Before moving to an early-season slot in 2016, the Russian Grand Prix ran in October. In both 2014 and 2015 Mercedes clinched the World Championship for Constructors' in Sochi. The race was respectively the 16th of 19 in 2014 and the 15th of 19 in 2015.
Mercedes' dominance extends to three pole positions: Hamilton in 2014 and Rosberg in 2015 and 2016. 2014-2015 were front row lock-outs. Last year Bottas started P2. This was largely by default as Ferrari's Vettel, P2 in qualifying, took a five-place grid penalty and Hamilton did not run in the Q3 session.
This will be a first F1 race at the Sochi Autodrom for Esteban Ocon, Lance Stroll and Stoffel Vandoorne. In 2014 Vandoorne was fifth in the GP2 feature race and second in the sprint; in 2015 he was third and fourth, the latter sealing the title for the Belgian. Ocon appeared on his way to the 2015 GP3 title, finishing second in both the feature and sprint races. Stroll has no prior experience here.
The first free practice sessions of the 2014 race saw an F1 race weekend debut for Sergey Sirotkin, who appeared for Sauber. The Muscovite's next FP1 appearance came again at Sochi, this time in 2016 for Renault. He remains with Renault for 2017 as test and reserve driver and is
expected to drive in FP1 this weekend.
Daniil Kvyat remains the only homegrown driver to race in Russia. Hailing from Ufa in Bashkortostan, Kvyat, driving for Toro Rosso in 2014, started fifth only to drop back to 14th in the race. In 2015, having been moved up to the senior Red Bull team, he started 11th and finished
fifth. Last year he started eighth and finished 15th - though his race was more memorable for two first-lap collisions with Vettel. Kvyat returned to Toro Rosso after the race, being replaced at Red Bull Racing by Max Verstappen.
The Russian Grand Prix has been largely a one-stop race. In three runnings, only three drivers have scored points with a two-stop strategy. Verstappen, finishing P10 in 2015, became the first driver to score in Russia on a two-stopper. He, like Sergio Pérez, ninth in 2016, needed a first lap pit stop having punctured a tyre at the start. Felipe Massa finished fifth in 2016, pitting on lap 18 and 46 - though Massa was able to, in effect, have a free second stop, pitting from fifth and retaining the place due to a 35-second cushion over sixth-placed Fernando Alonso.