The GP2 Series resumes with Russia’s Sochi circuit playing host to the ninth round of the 2015 season.


The Circuit

Sochi

2015 GP2 Series Race of Russia
Date 9-11 October 2015 Lap Length 5.848km
Free Practice Session Fri 12:00-12:45 Qualifying Fri 16:00-16:30
Feature Race (28 laps) Sat 16:40-17:50 Sprint Race (21 laps) Sun 11:05-11:45

Session times quoted in Moscow Standard Time (GMT + 03:00)

The Sochi Autodrom is a 5.8-kilometre semi-street circuit designed by Hermann Tilke, with the layout winding its way around the Olympic Park built for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games.

As is typically the case for many ‘Tilkedromes’ the facility itself is state of the art and features a number of his traditional hallmarks. In many ways, it resembles two of his more lamented creations – Valencia and Abu Dhabi – with a number of high-speed sweeps and walls placed reasonably close enough to punish any mistakes.

Unfortunately, the layout did not look particularly conducive to overtaking, although in contrast to the more senior Formula 1 category, the two GP2 Series races did provide some decent wheel-to-wheel action.


The Form Guide

Championship leader Stoffel Vandoorne has the chance to wrap up the drivers’ title in Sochi providing he outscores his closest competitor, Alexander Rossi, by at least six points. The odds are in the Belgian’s favour, as – apart from Silverstone – he has outscored the American in every race weekend this season.

Rossi heads into the weekend with his confidence potentially sky-high. Not only did he win the GP2 Series Feature Race last timer out at Monza, the Californian has also notched up two Formula 1 starts where he drove impressively in the Manor F1 car. Could his improved confidence be the platform to thwart Vandoorn’s championship ambitions?

Last year was the first time the new Sochi track was used, and qualifying saw the closest margin for pole position ever. Both Vandoorne and Arthur Pic set identical lap times in the qualifying session, with Vandoorne awarded pole by setting his lap time before Pic.

This weekend will see fourdriver changes for the two races in Sochi:

  • The Carlin team swaps out both of the drivers it used last time out at Monza. Indonesian driver Sean Gelael will re-join the team, driving the #4 car in place of Nissan Academy graduate Jann Mardenborough, who had a one-off GP2 outing at Monza. The team’s other car will be piloted by former Formula 2 champion and GP3 Series runner-up Dean Stoneman, who will make his GP2 Series debut in place of Colombia’s Julián Leal.
  • Canadian driver Nicholas Latifi will have his second hit-out for the MP Motorsport team, driving the #16 entry that was piloted by Dutch racer Meindert van Buuren at Monza.
  • The Daiko Team Lazarus squad will welcome back Nathanaël Berthon – who also missed the Monza round in place of Patric Niederhauser.

Meanwhile, the Hilmer Motorsport squad confirmed that it would skip the Russian round of the championship entirely, marking the second time this season that the squad has been missing in action.

The team missed the season-opening round in Bahrain and has fielded a veritable array of drivers over the course of the season. The team scaled back to single-car entries at Belgium and Italy, and the latest decision will do nothing to dissuade rumours about the team’s short-term financial health.

In other news, Jordan King (Racing Engineering) and Robert Visoiu (Rapax) will each serve a five-place grid penalty for the Feature Race after being found guilty of causing avoidable collisions at the preceding round in Monza with Norman Nato and Alexander Rossi respectively.

Images via XPB Images

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Josh Kruse

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