Breaking away from the exasperating heat of Marina Bay in Singapore, the next round of Formula 1 action brings us a cool and welcoming respite at Sochi, in Russia.
But make no mistake. The long straights and high-speed corners will challenge drivers once again to take on the task of blazing the fourth-longest track on the calendar.
The mathematical output of the Russian Grand Prix notwithstanding, the battle-lines would’ve been drawn between the rivals even before hitting the track.
Ferrari, despite showing a tremendous burst of form amplified by their securing a hat-trick of wins, would be aware of Mercedes’ unmatched superiority at a circuit where they haven’t allowed anyone to embrace the top step of the podium ever since the inaugural Grand Prix of Russia took place in 2014.
On the other hand, despite being the kings of Sochi, Mercedes would be aware of the hot streak of form that their red rivals currently find themselves in.
Red Bull, on the other hand, would want to kick up some dust about their continued streak of mediocrity at a venue where they puzzlingly have failed to collect a podium.
With so much of action on the cards and so much to play for, it’s time to dive into the 5 most memorable moments at the Russian Grand Prix:
The Finns collide in the 2015 Russian Grand Prix
The infamous 2015 run-in at Sochi brought about a calamitous end to Kimi Raikkonen’s race.
In a Grand Prix where Lewis Hamilton set the early pace in the race, bettering his then-teammate Nico Rosberg, and landed on the top step of the podium there was no dearth to drama in a packed mid-field where a strong battle for track position was being contested by the troika of Sergio Perez (Force India), Valtteri Bottas (Williams), and Raikkonen (Ferrari).
Toward the end of lap 52, as Bottas finally got the better of Perez, both cars seemingly competing with similar race-pace, Raikkonen too got caught up in the act looking interested for the fourth place.
The experienced Finn would pass the Mexican driver without much hassle, his task now evidently clear- to move up on Bottas for third and therefore, settling for a strong podium finish.
And that is when all the chaos broke out. Seconds later, on the final lap of the race the two Finns would come together toward a right-hander, even as it appeared that the Williams driver held on to the racing line. This left Bottas to drop down to twelfth while Raikkonen would cop a grid penalty, ending eventually in eighth.
Hamilton clinches the maiden race in 2014
The 2014 Russian Grand Prix was anything but a thriller, however, it did write another page in the history books of Lewis Hamilton – winner of the inaugural race.
Demonstrating superior race pace, Mercedes, in the first-ever year of the hybrid era, dominated the proceedings as Lewis cut no corners in emerging on the top step of the podium in front of a packed crowd at Sochi.
In so doing, Hamilton clinched his ninth win of the season while his teammate – Nico Rosberg – did well enough to recover from an error and an early pit stop on Lap 1 to finish second.
Meanwhile, a key highlight of the 2014 race, the very first instalment of the Russian Grand Prix saw Valtteri Bottas clinch a respectable third in emerging the best of the rest above the likes of McLaren and Force India.
The Torpedo strikes in the 2016 Russian Grand Prix
One of the striking and widely debated moments of the 2016 Russian Grand Prix came at the behest of Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat contacting the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel early on in the race to plunge the contest into a state of great drama.
Right inside the opening lap as the top three were involved in a great tussle for the lead as Raikkonen made a scintillating move on Williams’ Valtteri Bottas around Turn 2 for second, following track leader, Nico Rosberg of Mercedes.
Meanwhile, all hell was to break loose in the midfield as Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat would strike the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel down at Turn 3. As a result of the high-speed contact, while Vettel would crash out, colliding into the barriers, Kvyat would continue despite losing some bodywork for good measure.
The incident, widely captured through various trolls and memes on the Internet dubbed Kvyat the ‘Russian Torpedo’, the driver eventually finished P15.
Bottas’s great sacrifice for his championship-winning teammate
The 2018 Formula 1 season wasn’t the greatest by any stretch of the imagination for Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas. In a season where there were so many instances where Bottas, quite simply, ran out of luck, picture his running on the debris during the closing moments of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix while being in the lead of the race (only to retire), the Finn endured arguably the toughest run in his career.
Yet, one of the most underrated aspects of the entire season was Bottas eloping with not one or two or three but 7 fastest laps in the end, that’s one in every three races.
But if there was one moment where it seemed Bottas did nothing wrong, in controlling the race proceedings with utmost concentration and balance and yet not making it to the top step of the podium, then it was during the closing stages of the 2018 Russian Grand Prix.
With the world championship up for grabs, and Lewis Hamilton having to play for everything, it was time for team orders to be executed on the Briton’s teammate Bottas who was holding the top track position until Lap 25.
But one lap later, as Hamilton came under increasing pressure from the speedy Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel, hot on the trail of Lewis’ Mercedes, Bottas was instructed to let Hamilton through.
And that was the end of that. It wasn’t the greatest feeling in the world to see Valtteri cut a sombre figure standing on the second step of the podium, reminding one of Raikkonen at Monaco, in 2017.
Every Lewis Hamilton win
Just as Kimi is hailed as the “King of Spa,” and Senna is widely celebrated as the original “Regenmeister,” Lewis Hamilton deserves to be called the “Ruler of Russia”, having won the contest on three separate occasions.
That Hamilton has gone on to win the first instalment of the race- in 2014- following it up with another incredible win in 2015 and finally, as seen in the controversy-plagued 2018 Russian Grand Prix makes him quite clearly the most successful man on the grid where it comes to nailing the challenging contest at Sochi.
But importantly, Hamilton’s great streak of consistency has denied Ferrari from securing even a single win out here in Russia.
It’s a feat that Mercedes and their top man for the job- Lewis Hamilton- will hope remains that way when the Russian Grand Prix of 2019 takes place but for that to happen, the Silver Arrows will have to find a way to blast past the strikingly good form of Ferrari, as evident from at Spa, Monza and where seen recently, Marina Bay.