Citius, Altius, Fortius
While motorsport was never a discipline in the Olympic Games, it is arguable that Formula One drivers share many traits with Olympians: both groups see performance as an ultimate goal; both devote every waking moment to achieving higher standards of competition; both live and train in preparation for the ultimate test, be it a race, a match or a contest, in order to win the coveted prize. And just like the Games are a hugely inspiring event, a Formula One Grand Prix is also the kind of sporting pursuit that inspires awe in those watching the action.
The Sochi Autodrom is not, of course, the first venue to host Formula One and have a close connection to the Olympic Games. The Circuit de Catalunya was used as one of the venues for road cycling in the 1992 Barcelona Games, while the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City and the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve both are built in locations used for Olympic events in the past (in 1968 and 1976, respectively). Rio de Janeiro (Jacarepaguá) and Los Angeles (with several events in Long Beach in the 1984 Games) also share membership of this small club.
Still, as one of the most recent additions to the calendar (before the calendar madness of this unusual 2020 season, at least), the track in Sochi throws prominent reminders of our sport’s Games connection at every corner – literally so. The track snakes around some of the venues of the 2014 Winter Olympics, taking in the sights, among others, of the Bolshoy Ice Dome, the Iceberg and the Fisht Stadium, which hosted the opening and closing ceremonies of the Games and later became one of the venues of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Together with the giant Olympic rings welcoming teams and fans alike at the train station, there’s no doubting the recent history of the place – assuming drivers can focus on any of the buildings when zooming past them in their cars.
A lap of Sochi, one of the longest tracks on the calendar, features a good number of 90-degree corners, typical of these semi-street circuits, but also two long straights-that-aren’t-quite-so. The most memorable corner of all, however, remains turn three/four, an extended semicircle around the old medal plaza, lined with the flags of all participating countries in the 2014 Games, a corner that evokes comparisons with turn eight in Istanbul and was the location of a few famous shunts (think Grosjean in 2015 and Vettel in 2016) and some epic overtakes (such as Charles Leclerc’s on Magnussen in 2018).
As we head to Russia for round ten of the 2020 season, we will be looking to build on the encouraging performances of the last couple of races to continue our progression. Having returned to the points in Mugello and with three Q2 appearances in the last four races, the objective is to keep pushing to gain ground in the midfield fight.
Citius, Altius, Fortius – faster, higher, stronger – runs the official motto of the Olympic Games. Those noble ideas hailing the perpetual struggle for improvement can very much apply to our team as well.