F1 drivers call for changes to Sochi’s ‘worst corner’

Formula 1 drivers have called for changes to Sochi’s Turn 2 after a weekend of penalties associated with cutting the corner culminated in a heavy accident for Carlos Sainz.

Drivers who went behind the apex kerbs were obliged to take an “escape route” created by a gap between the polystyrene blocks and the wall, or face a loss of a lap time in qualifying or a five-second penalty in the race.

Sainz ran straight on at the corner on the first lap of the Russian GP, and having misjudged his speed through the gap the McLaren driver ran hard into the wall, saying later that it was a poor design that “shouldn’t exist.”

Williams driver George Russell, who followed Sainz through the gap but somehow avoided getting involved in his accident, agreed that the whole corner should be redesigned.

“Firstly, it’s one of the worst corners of the calendar,” he said when asked by Motorsport.com. “And secondly, for racing it’s a terrible design.

“I actually suggested this in a drivers’ briefing earlier in the season that we’ve got the room and the space to create almost a Bahrain-style Turn One and Two, almost a hairpin into a kink, which firstly will allow drivers to lunge one another into Turn One, to get better racing, and also avoid people having to cut the track.

“Because when you go into a 90 degrees corner that actually tightens up on itself, when you’re three or four abreast, obviously cars are going to get pushed off.”

Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo received a five-second penalty in the race for cutting behind the kerbs, as he was not able to slow down enough to take the mandated route.

“The geometry is weird. My situation, for example, I locked up so I was like, ‘It’s gonna be tight.’ But it’s just the way it’s shaped, it leaves you with hope until the very last minute, or that very last second, I should say.

“And obviously, by the point you’ve committed, you can’t really go back across, you’d lose probably more than five seconds. So I guess there’s that point of no return, and obviously I’d got to that and I just said, ‘Alright, I’ll just go and if I get a penalty, then obviously I’ll suck it up.’

“I think to be honest Turn 2, a few of us drivers have been vocal. I think they could do something better with it in general, I think even just to allow more overtaking for example, maybe a different shaped corner, less of such a short apex.

“They’ve got quite a bit of room to play with. So we have talked about it in the past, and maybe that would also eliminate the issue that we’re having with this, this cut through etcetera.”

FIA race director Michael Masi admitted that the corner was not easy to deal with.

“Turn 2 has been one of those that’s been a challenge in different ways each year,” said the Australian.

“You fix things in one way, and it has another impact. So we’re trying to find the best solution. And I think we’ve found a reasonable solution. Now is there room for improvement? Yes. There’s always room for improvement.”

Asked if gravel could be used to slow the cars down, he noted: “As I’ve said a number of times that there’s different solutions for different circuits, different corners, taking everything into account. And gravel is not a solution everywhere.

“With regards to speeds in run-offs, one of the things that obviously we’ve tried to achieve and aim to achieve is primarily that the rejoin in such circumstances is effectively funnelled in a way that it’s as safe as possible. That’s the primary objective.

“Secondary is to slow cars down if possible within that area. However, the nature of Turn 2, because of literally the nature of the corner, it’s very hard to find a one-size fits all solution. So we’ll continue looking at it, and see what we can do.”

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