While motorsport was never a discipline in the Olympic Games, it is arguable that Formula One drivers share many traits with Olympians: both groups see performance as an ultimate goal; both devote every waking moment to achieving higher standards of competition; both live and train in preparation for the ultimate test, be it a race, a match or a contest, in order to win the coveted prize. And just like the Games are a hugely inspiring event, a Formula One Grand Prix is also the kind of sporting pursuit that inspires awe in those watching the action.
The Sochi Autodrom is not, of course, the first venue to host Formula One and have a close connection to the Olympic Games. The Circuit de Catalunya was used as one of the venues for road cycling in the 1992 Barcelona Games, while the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City and the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve both are built in locations used for Olympic events in the past (in 1968 and 1976, respectively). Rio de Janeiro (Jacarepaguá) and Los Angeles (with several events in Long Beach in the 1984 Games) also share membership of this small club.
Still, as one of the most recent additions to the calendar (before the calendar madness of this unusual 2020 season, at least), the track in Sochi throws prominent reminders of our sport's Games connection at every corner - literally so. The track snakes around some of the venues of the 2014 Winter Olympics, taking in the sights, among others, of the Bolshoy Ice Dome, the Iceberg and the Fisht Stadium, which hosted the opening and closing ceremonies of the Games and later became one of the venues of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Together with the giant Olympic rings welcoming teams and fans alike at the train station, there's no doubting the recent history of the place - assuming drivers can focus on any of the buildings when zooming past them in their cars.
A lap of Sochi, one of the longest tracks on the calendar, features a good number of 90-degree corners, typical of these semi-street circuits, but also two long straights-that-aren't-quite-so. The most memorable corner of all, however, remains turn three/four, an extended semicircle around the old medal plaza, lined with the flags of all participating countries in the 2014 Games, a corner that evokes comparisons with turn eight in Istanbul and was the location of a few famous shunts (think Grosjean in 2015 and Vettel in 2016) and some epic overtakes (such as Charles Leclerc's on Magnussen in 2018).
As we head to Russia for round ten of the 2020 season, we will be looking to build on the encouraging performances of the last couple of races to continue our progression. Having returned to the points in Mugello and with three Q2 appearances in the last four races, the objective is to keep pushing to gain ground in the midfield fight.
Citius, Altius, Fortius - faster, higher, stronger - runs the official motto of the Olympic Games. Those noble ideas hailing the perpetual struggle for improvement can very much apply to our team as well.
Frederic Vasseur, Team Principal: "We head to Russia with the very welcome confidence boost of our recent result in Mugello. It's not just the two points giving us morale, but the knowledge of having claimed them with a car that was badly damaged. We have made some obvious steps forward recently, as displayed in the last triple header, and now we have to build on those gains to keep challenging the other teams in the midfield. Executing a clean race weekend will now be crucial to maximise our potential, but we can be positive looking forward to Sochi."
Kimi Raikkonen: "I don't have many good memories about racing in Sochi as for some reason it's always been a fairly unlucky track for me. However, I am not someone who looks at past form too much: my focus is on having a good weekend and get the most of what our car can produce. Having made it to Q2 in the last few races, we have seen we can keep up with the cars around there and fight for a place in the points so that has to be the target for this weekend as well."
Antonio Giovinazzi: "I am looking forward to returning to the car after this week off as I still feel the frustration from the last race. We have seen with Kimi that the potential to get a good result is there but I effectively only got to race for one corner in Mugello: I want to get back behind the wheel and push to get to Q2 on Saturday and into the points on race day. My only racing experience in Sochi, last year, wasn't a very lucky one, as I was squeezed into contact at lap one and had to stop for repairs: I have unfinished business here and I want to put it right this year."