Sochi Autodrom: The Ultimate Track Guide

After failed attempts for thirty years, Russia finally got to host a Formula 1 Grand Prix in 2014, as the sport headed to Sochi to race around the site of the Winter Olympic Games.

TRACK LENGTH 3.634 miles
MOST POLES Nico Rosberg (2)
MOST WINS Lewis Hamilton (5)

Before the First World War, two Russian Grands Prix were held, in 1913 and 1914. Taking place at a circuit in Saint Petersburg, the races were a success, with Russian racer Georgy Suvorin winning the first event, and German Willy Scholl winning the 1914 Grand Prix. Following the outbreak of the war, and the subsequent Russian Civil War, racing in the country was stopped. The Grand Prix was not resumed in the post-war years following the forming of the Soviet Union.

It wasn’t until the 1980s when talk once again began about a Russian Grand Prix. An event titled the Grand Prix of the Soviet Union was put on the Formula One calendar for 1983, with a proposed circuit in Moscow set to be the host. However, plans for the race were cancelled and instead Hungary became the first communist country to host a Grand Prix. In 2001, Vladimir Putin backed a bid for another Grand Prix, at the proposed Pulkovskoe Ring. The circuit, and Grand Prix, never came into being. In 2003, another project for a Grand Prix in Moscow began, but was later abandoned. Five years later, the Moscow Raceway was set to become home to the Russian Grand Prix. The track had been designed by Hermann Tilke, and though the Grand Prix circus never travelled there, the track was built and opened in 2012.

As Vitaly Petrov became Russia’s first Formula One driver in 2010, momentum was gaining to finally bring the sport to the country. In October 2010, it was announced that Sochi would host the Russian Grand Prix from 2014 onward. Sochi is a popular holiday destination as it is located on the coast of the Black Sea. It has the best of both worlds, with both the Caucasus mountains and the beach nearby.

Similar to the Moscow Raceway, the track was designed by Tilke. Work began on the circuit in July 2011, which was to be built around some of the buildings which were to play host to the Winter Olympics, held in Sochi in 2014. The International Olympic Committee was given the power to halt building of the track if it interfered with preparations for the Games, and the organisers were given leeway to push the début of the Russian Grand Prix back to 2015 if they needed to. The building of the circuit never interfered, however the track surface was not laid until after the Closing Ceremony of the Games. The track cost around $200 million to build. After a final inspection of the course by the FIA in August 2014, the circuit was deemed ready to race, and Formula One finally arrived in Russia in October 2014.

The Russian Grand Prix will remain on the calendar until 2025,


Lewis Hamilton took pole position at the 2020 Russian Grand Prix, but a time penalty derailed his Sunday afternoon. Valtteri Bottas ensured Mercedes maintained their 100% win record at Sochi Autodrom.

Sebastian Vettel crashed in qualifying, and was lucky to be avoided by his team-mate. The resulting red flag meant that Lewis Hamilton had a bumpy route into Q3, but he made it and subsequently took pole position. Max Verstappen lined up alongside Hamilton on the front row. Valtteri Bottas made light work of passing the Red Bull on the run to Turn 1 and even challenged Hamilton for the lead – but the reigning champion remained ahead. Behind, Verstappen ran wide at the first chicane, as did multiple other drivers. Among them was Carlos Sainz, who crashed when attempting to round the bollards in the run-off area. With the yellow flags out, Lance Stroll spun after contact with Charles Leclerc; the Racing Point driver becoming the second retirement of the afternoon. Before the race reached Lap 10, Hamilton picked up two five second time penalties as a result of making a practice start in the wrong area of track. Alex Albon, Lando Norris and George Russell became embroiled in a battle for position at the back of the field, with Albon ultimately ending up ahead. Hamilton was first of the leaders to pit and dropped to tenth as he served his penalties. He fought back to third place, with the top two positions remaining unchanged. There was action in the closing stages from Norris, Albon and Pierre Gasly, all fighting over ninth place. As Gasly and Albon fought over tenth, with Gasly winning that particular battle, Norris was able to pull clear – though a late pit stop dropped Norris to fifteenth. Bottas took the victory with a seven second margin to Verstappen.


Ferrari took a fourth consecutive pole, but their race fell apart as Sebastian Vettel retired, gifting Mercedes a 1-2 finish.

Alex Albon crashed in the first part of qualifying, meaning he had to start from the pit-lane. At the sharp end of the grid, Charles Leclerc took a fourth consecutive pole position, starting alongside Lewis Hamilton on the front row for the third race in succession. On the run to the first turn, Sebastian Vettel made the most of his slipstream to shoot from third into the lead as Carlos Sainz challenged Hamilton for third place. There was drama further back, as Antonio Giovinazzi, Daniel Ricciardo and Romain Grosjean collided, with the Haas driver ending up in the wall. As the Safety Car came out, Kimi Raikkonen picked up a penalty for a jump start. After the restart, Leclerc was told that Vettel would allow him to re-pass; but Vettel didn’t want to lose time in allowing him by. A series of team radio messages followed, before Leclerc pitted on Lap 23. The undercut allowed him to get ahead of Vettel, but a few laps later the German retired from the race with power unit problems. Hamilton pitted from the front under Virtual Safety Car conditions, allowing him to maintain his lead. Just after the VSC period ended, George Russell found his Williams embedded in the tyre barrier. The incident led to a further caution period. Mercedes occupied the top two positions, with Leclerc mounting a charge on Bottas’ second place. His attack was unsuccessful, and Mercedes claimed another 1-2 finish. Max Verstappen drove from ninth to fourth, while Albon finished fifth after his pit-lane start.


Controversy loomed in Sochi in 2018. Valtteri Bottas took pole but moved out of the way for his team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who took victory to aid his championship charge.

Penalties at Red Bull and Toro Rosso led to a Q2 session in which they, and the two Renault drivers, didn’t bother setting lap times. Renault’s strategy gave them free tyre choice for Sunday’s Grand Prix. Valtteri Bottas took his second pole of the season, lapping 0.141 seconds faster than his team-mate, who made an error on his final fast lap. Sebastian Vettel made a better start than Lewis Hamilton, but Mercedes remained in the lead at the first turn. Both Toro Rosso drivers were out on the first lap with similar braking issues. Elsewhere, Max Verstappen, who started in nineteenth was putting on a show on his 21st birthday, making up fourteen places in the first eight laps. At the first round of pit-stops, Vettel pitted first and Hamilton emerged alongside the Ferrari after the Mercedes driver’s stop, with Vettel taking the position. Hamilton closed back in on Vettel, and Vettel aggressively blocked an overtaking attempt by Hamilton, who would eventually get past him at the next turn. On Lap 25, Bottas allowed Hamilton to pass him as Mercedes informed the Finn that Hamilton had blistering on his rear tyres and Vettel was becoming a threat. Meanwhile, with ten laps to go, Verstappen finally pitted after leading much of the race. He’d finish fifth. Hamilton took the victory, though celebrations were muted, with Bottas finishing second and Vettel third.


2014Lewis HamiltonMercedesLewis HamiltonMercedes
2015Nico RosbergMercedesLewis HamiltonMercedes
2016Nico RosbergMercedesNico RosbergMercedes
2017Sebastian VettelFerrariValtteri BottasMercedes
2018Valtteri BottasMercedesLewis HamiltonMercedes
2019Charles LeclercFerrariLewis HamiltonMercedes
2020Lewis HamiltonMercedesValtteri BottasMercedes
2021Lando NorrisMcLarenLewis HamiltonMercedes
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