Russian Grand Prix winner Lewis Hamilton believes the Sochi Formula 1 circuit must be changed to improve the quality of racing, and has suggested reversing the track’s direction.
Although only two of the five Russian GPs held since 2014 have been won by the driver who started from pole positions, the races have featured little overtaking and been criticised for being boring.
Hamilton said after clinching his third Russian GP victory last weekend that the track layout needed to be altered and that F1 should consider a bold suggestion.
“It’s a really beautiful place here in Sochi,” said Hamilton. “On a single lap, when you’re on your own it’s cool, but it’s not very good at all for racing.
“You’ve got the really long straight but the characteristics of the circuit mean the first two sectors are quite fast.
“And the last sector, the rear tyres are so hot, it’s impossible to follow another car, so you can’t even get close to have a run.”
He added: “I was saying in the changing room, they should do it in reverse.
“Go backwards, go the other way around the track, so you have the slow section first and then the fast sections.
“I don’t know if it’ll make a difference. But otherwise they’ve got to change the track to make it more racing-like.”
The Sochi circuit has been designed around the Olympic Park built for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Alexey Titov, CEO of the Rosgonki company that organises the Russian GP, told Motorsport.com earlier this year that changes had been discussed but would be implemented after 2018.
Hamilton claimed he had requested a simple tweak to FIA race director Charlie Whiting for this year’s race.
“I did ask Charlie if he could bring the DRS [activation point] even earlier, because that maybe would encourage overtaking,” said Hamilton.
“You need to be 1.4s faster than the car in front of you – and when you’re racing with someone you’re not 1.4s faster than him – to overtake.
“There are circuits that have which have a much smaller delta to overtake.”
Whiting explained that the request for an altered DRS zone was made during the drivers’ briefing and thus too late to be implemented.
“It proved impossible to do overnight,” said Whiting. “There were too many systems that needed to be changed.
“New loops would have had to be installed, it really wasn’t practical to try and do it for Saturday.
“At 700m, it’s a pretty normal DRS zone. But I think there’s a peculiarity with the tyres and how they work on this particular track, I think that’s what probably made it more difficult.
“We will of course look to see if we can do it for next year, and we’ll be discussing other reasons why it hasn’t actually worked well here.”
Reversing a circuit presents major logistical challenges, with multiple elements such as the kerbs, marshal posts, run-off and barriers all designed and positioned to run in the current direction.
It would need to be re-homologated by the FIA and may require a permanent direction change, like the Misano circuit in Italy had as part of a major redesign in 2006.
No international championship races are run on temporarily-reversed circuit layouts, although the Knockhill track is reversed for some Scottish club meetings.
Additional reporting by Adam Cooper
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W09
Photo by: Andrew Hone / LAT Images