This is just the fourth time we have headed to the Sochi Autodrom since the inaugural race here in 2014, so it is still a relatively new circuit with new tarmac. The surface is very smooth indeed, probably the smoothest we see all season, which does present some challenges. It can be difficult to warm up the tyres during qualifying and degradation is extremely low, as we saw when Nico Rosberg pitted on lap one in 2014 and managed the entire remainder of the race on that set of tyres. It is a circuit that requires good all round performance as it has a wide range of different speed corners and a long straight, requiring power and efficiency. The long straight also provides one of the longest drags from the race start to the first turn, which gives some interesting opportunities for slipstreaming after the start. We are reasonably encouraged by the performance of the car in Bahrain, so we are optimistic for a strong race. The Formula one fan base in Russia is growing in this relatively new territory for the sport, so we look forward to putting on an exciting show for everybody this weekend.
Sochi is a really nice track to drive and it’s a race I enjoy a lot. In the past it’s a track we have done well at – I finished fourth and fifth in 2014 and 2015 – so I’m hoping we can have another good race there this year. The event has been getting bigger every year so I’m really looking forward to going back again.
This is certainly one of the most difficult tracks for me to talk about as I have never been there or done it on the sim yet. I did watch last year’s race but still have to really see how the track is. However, I do enjoy going to new tracks. They all have their own particular characteristics and it is fun to find these out. Obviously the first experience I will have is the Thursday track walk, which I do with my engineers. It is surprising how much you can learn about a track by walking it that is still relevant when you are going round at speed in an F1 car. You get to know the bumps and have a feel for how the car will react. When learning a new one there is no set number of laps it takes, as sometimes you get into it very quickly and others it takes a bit more time. It just depends on the track and your feeling and how long it takes to get into a rhythm.