The Sochi circuit presents quite smooth asphalt, with tyres from the middle of the P Zero Formula 1 range chosen this year: C2 as White hard, C3 as Yellow medium and C4 as Red soft. This is one step harder than the selection for Russia last year (and also one step harder than Singapore last weekend).
The Russian Grand Prix was noted for its smooth asphalt when it joined the championship in 2014, with Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg able to complete practically the whole race on just one set of tyres. Since then the surface has matured and roughened: in combination with a track layout that's not particularly severe, this is not an especially demanding circuit for tyres.
The exception is Turn 3: the most demanding corner of the circuit. This is a multi-apex left-hander that is similar in some ways to Istanbul's famous Turn 8 in Turkey. In general, the circuit is all about traction and braking, with the front-right tyre worked hardest.
Last year, the 2018 soft, ultrasoft and hypersoft were nominated in Russia: a step softer than this year. A harder selection this time should ensure that drivers are able to push to the maximum throughout each stint, rather than rely on pace management, and should also cope well with any changes in the track surface.
One pit stop is also the norm, historically. Last year, Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton won from second on the grid using a one-stop ultrasoft-soft strategy, while Red Bull's Max Verstappen did the opposite (soft-ultrasoft) to finish fifth from the back of the grid.
Weather conditions can be quite variable. Last year there was some rain before the race, but in other years there has been bright sunshine. A notable chance of rain is currently forecast.
Mercedes has won every grand prix ever held in Russia – including the very first two races, held at Saint Petersburg in 1913 and 1914.
MARIO ISOLA - HEAD OF F1 AND CAR RACING
"With Russia now re-established in its autumn date, having moved back to this slot last year, it's going to be interesting to see what has changed compared to 2018. We're bringing tyres from the middle of the range this year – a step harder than last year – which should be well-adapted to a wide variety of conditions. Longitudinal rather than lateral forces are the main influence on the tyres here, with a high degree of track evolution throughout the weekend. Anticipating the set-up and tyre strategy with regard to the changing requirements of the track will be one of the keys to success in Sochi. A new absolute lap record was set last year by Valtteri Bottas in qualifying last year – let's see if that is lowered further this year".
OTHER PIRELLI NEWS
Pirelli recently clinched a WRC2 podium lockout with its brand new gravel rally tyre on the Rally of Turkey: widely known as the roughest event on the World Rally Championship.
The 18-inch Formula 1 tyre testing programme has got underway with the first session at Paul Ricard in France, featuring Renault and its Russian test driver Sergey Sirotkin. He completed more than 200 laps in two days, using an adapted 2018 Renault.
Championship leader Lewis Hamilton has made a tyre choice that nobody else has for the Russian Grand Prix: one hard tyre, four medium tyres (more than anyone else) and eight soft tyres.
THE TYRES NOMINATED THIS SEASON