Russian Grand Prix: Ferrari to end Mercedes' strong Sochi showing?

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Nico Rosberg (pictured) won the 2016 Russian Grand Prix

Sochi. It looks lovely on television, the snow-capped Caucasus mountains on one side, the shimmering Black Sea on the other, a pleasant-looking town sandwiched in between, reminiscent of New Zealand's South Island, or perhaps Switzerland, with a few futuristic Olympic buildings thrown in to spice it up.

The reality is somewhat less perfect - a humdrum town with not much going on, few restaurants that seem to know how to cook a decent meal or serve it within a reasonable time or in the right order.

A paddock in shade - and often therefore distinctly chilly - for much of the day. An unremarkable track. And then there's all the political baggage that comes with it, too. Still, put all that aside, and there is plenty to look forward to this weekend.

Where are we?

Sochi

With the Black Sea on one side and the Caucasus Mountains on the other, the backdrop for the Russian Grand Prix is both stunning and unique.

The city of Sochi is a popular holiday resort but has also developed into a sporting venue in recent years.

The circuit itself weaves in and around the site of the Olympic Park for the 2014 Winter Olympics and the city will also be a host city for next year's football World Cup.

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Bernie Ecclestone
A meeting of minds. Former F1 boss and Russia president Vladimir Putin at a previous race in Sochi

The circuit

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How the title contenders have got on so far this season

It could be a good weekend for...

McLaren. Well, maybe not a good weekend but a better one than they have had so far this season.

They had a surprisingly good final day in testing in Bahrain after the last race, so good in fact that it even took the team by surprise.

Stoffel Vandoorne completed 81 laps, finishing fourth fastest, and McLaren were at a loss to explain how he had done so well, given that the engine was the same specification as the one that struggled after two laps on the first day of testing.

The circuit, where straight-line speed is important, isn't the best for the McLaren package but getting through the weekend with minimal reliability issues would be an important step forward.

McLaren
McLaren have brought a reliability upgrade to Sochi, which is good news for Fernando Alonso. He has failed to finish any of the three races so far this season

It could be a bad weekend for...

Marcus Ericsson. The Swede has struggled so far this season, retiring from two of the three races so far with his best finish 15th in China.

His Sauber team-mate Pascal Wehrlein returned in Bahrain after missing the first two races as he built up his fitness following a back injury and promptly finished 11th.

The pressure will be on Ericsson to ensure his is closer to Wehrlein this weekend.

Hulkenberg's Russia hoodoo - the stats

  • Ferrari have won two races so far this season - their best start to a year since 2008 when they won four of the first five races.
  • Valtteri Bottas, while driving for Williams, became the first non-Mercedes driver to start on the front row in Sochi last year.
  • Toro Rosso's Russian driver Daniil Kvyat has yet to finish higher than fifth at his home race.
  • Nico Hulkenberg has crashed out on the first lap of the last two races in Russia.
Romain Grosjean
Romain Grosjean enjoyed the view on arrival...
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... or was Romain just taking photos because he was bored? He certainly looks it in this picture.
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Home favourite Daniil Kvyat warmed up for the race with a spot of curling.

How to follow on the BBC

Russian Grand Prix coverage details (all times BST)
DateSessionTimeRadio coverageOnline text commentary
Friday, 28 AprilPreview21:30BBC Radio 5 live and podcast
Friday, 28 AprilFirst practice08:55BBC Radio 5 live sports extrafrom 08:30
Friday, 28 AprilSecond practice12:55BBC Sport websitefrom 12:30
Saturday, 29 AprilThird practice09:55BBC Radio 5 live sports extrafrom 09:30
Saturday, 29 AprilQualifying12:55BBC Radio 5 live sports extrafrom 12:00
Sunday, 30 AprilRace13:00BBC Radio 5 livefrom 11:30
Monday, 31 AprilReview04:30BBC Radio 5 live and podcast

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