From the heat and humidity of the equatorial race in the one of Asia’s biggest financial hubs to a much cooler time in an out-of-season Russian holiday resort, the contrast could not be much bigger than those between these last two back-to-back races in Singapore and Sochi.
We won’t dwell on Singapore too much, as Formula 1 moves at such a pace that it is well in the past now. Except to say that Pierre had a really strong race to bring home the points that go with eighth place. Daniil, by his own admission never got the best out of the package and indeed, his run of bad luck continued in his home race.
While we know it’s great for you fans, the back-to-back races involve a huge amount of planning on the logistics side and specifically, the trip from Singapore to Russia is one of the tightest turnarounds on the calendar. By the time the chequered flag was waved and the amazing firework display had lit up the night sky at Marina Bay, the paddock itself was full of forklift trucks, packing cases and team members who had swapped smart team kit for high-viz safety clothing and heavy boots.
Our drivers had different schedules in between the races. Naturally enough, Daniil headed straight for Moscow on the Monday, keen to spend a few days in his home country, while Pierre stayed in Singapore until the Tuesday. Both drivers did a bit of training on the Wednesday, as you have to find time to keep in shape when you can and then there was a Red Bull Russia Barbeque to enjoy in the evening.
By the time the two drivers arrived at the track on Thursday morning, the Sochi paddock was all set-up and ready to go, the Toro Rosso crew and indeed all the other teams, having worked flat out since the Tuesday when the cars and freight were unloaded in the garages.
No surprise that Daniil, as the only Russian driver in Formula 1, was called to the Thursday afternoon FIA conference and both our drivers were also followed by Netflix, who are working on a second series, following last year’s successful show that went behind the scenes of Formula 1.
Along with our engine partner Honda, we had decided that both our drivers would take on new engines at this race, partly to fit in with the planned Power Unit use until the end of the season and also because it means we go to Honda’s home race, the next round of the championship in Japan, with lower mileage on the engines. For Pierre, this would mean a five place grid penalty, whereas Danii, out of sequence with his team-mate in terms of PU use, would change all the elements that go with the engine and would start from the back of the grid.
Inevitably, that would make for a tough race, but Pierre looked to be set for a points finish, but he was one of several drivers who changed tyres before the first Safety Car period which meant the guys he was racing against on track could pit and change, losing far less time. He and Daniil provided some of the most exciting moments of the Russian Grand Prix, with some very close and tough overtaking moves on each other!
There are now just five races to go and that involves crisscrossing the globe between now and 1st December. We have a few days to regroup in the factory and then it will be time to fly to Japan. The race at Suzuka is always one of the most eagerly anticipated by everyone in F1, because it’s such a fantastic track with a great atmosphere. Last year, it was extra special for us, as it was our first year in partnership with Honda, who actually own the track. We got a great reception and this year, our sister team is also Honda powered, so the grandstands should be a sea of Red Bull blue!