Formula One rests for no man… after a packed flight home from Bahrain followed by a well-deserved long weekend of sleeping, we’re off again! Next stop: Russia.
A rapid transfer from the factory later and we join what feels like most of the F1 circus, as the masses descend on Luton airport early on Wednesday morning. Counterparts from Red Bull, Force India, McLaren and even some of our British friends from Ferrari are packed onto a charter plane bound for Sochi.
A short flight later, the first thing you notice on the other side is the mountains. The snow-topped Caucasus mountains peek out over the City, which not so long ago played host to the 2014 Winter Olympics. Everywhere you look, there are relics of Sochi’s Olympic legacy – none more so than the massive ice hockey stadium that looms over the race circuit and the huge torch that carried the Olympic flame.
Thursday is, of course, the traditional media day which kicks off each Grand Prix weekend. And today, the talk is dominated by the ongoing battle between Mercedes and Ferrari. It’s 2-1 in the red team’s favour after a particularly stinging defeat for the Silver Arrows in Bahrain. But the silver cars have been the ones to beat at Sochi in recent years, leading every lap and claiming all three wins on offer since the Russian circuit debuted on the calendar in 2014.
It was a busy start for our boys, as Valtteri welcomed some guests from Petronas before facing the international media in the FIA Press Conference. And his expectations for the weekend are of another tight contest…
“It's going to be another close fight with Ferrari,” he said. “We're probably going be talking hundredths of a second again.”
Lewis also faced the media spotlight, with a packed house in the team’s hospitality suite – the main topic from the world’s press being the team orders hangover from Bahrain.
“We want to make sure we maximise results for the team through a weekend. While individually you want to win the race, if you can't, you still want the team to win. You want the team to succeed.
“We want to finish, Mercedes, ahead of the Ferraris this year. To do that, we have to work as a team more than ever before.”
Media commitments ticked off, the boys got a chance to meet the fans for an autograph session – hosted by none other than former F1 racer Vitaly Petrov. After rattling through a tonne of signed autograph cards, posters, caps, model cars and even a few customised t-shirts, Lewis and Valtteri headed back to the paddock for some final TV time.
Thursday is often a day for cheap talk – but the main message coming out of the Silver Arrows camp ahead of the Russian Grand Prix was a defiant one. Defeat in Bahrain was bruising. But the team won’t stop in its efforts to constantly improve. Let’s get going…