Ahead of this weekend’s FIA Formula 3 season finale in Sochi, Alex Smolyar has expressed his excitement over racing at home in Russia for the first time in four years.
Smolyar, who was raised in a town called Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, situated some 10,000 kilometres from this weekend’s venue, last competed in Sochi in 2017 as part of the SMP F4 NEZ Championship.
With the 2021 F3 finale moved from Austin to Sochi due to logistical issues, the 20-year-old has been granted the chance to compete in front of his home fans once again – this time as an F3 driver.
“It’s really great. I’m really not used to racing in Russia anymore. It’s a great feeling,” Smolyar said. “Everyone says racing at home is a different feeling and I never understood this. I thought ‘it’s the same track, same as where we race everywhere else.’
“But already today I woke up, and you have a different feeling. You are comfortable, you are at home. I was doing a track walk today, and there was like 100 people around me taking pictures, saying good luck.
“It was really nice. I wish we had all the races in Russia, every round! But for sure, I really miss racing here, it’s a great feeling.”
Aside from the venue being his home circuit, Smolyar states he is a fan of the layout, asserting the series of 90 degree corners, as well as the high speed Turn 3 and the tricky Turn 12 are distinctive to the track.
“What makes it unique is 90 degree corners: some people take them that they’re really boring,” Smolyar said. “But if I remember, we don’t really have such corners in the whole calendar, so that’s actually something special about the track.
“It’s really smooth, the tyres don’t degrade that much. Also there are two or three special corners, Turn 3 is special, then braking in Turn 12, the one where you have to turn and brake alongside the wall.
“And then the last corner for me, the exit before the start finish line is very short. It’s something that we don’t really have in the F1 calendar. That’s really impressive.”
Smolyar has enjoyed a somewhat successful 2021 season in F3, scoring two wins in Barcelona and Le Castellet, as well as two further podiums at Spa-Francorchamps and Zandvoort.
With Smolyar seeking further success in front of his home crowd, the last event of the season is set to be interrupted by heavy downpours on Saturday. The Russian is hoping a rain-soaked track can be avoided after feeling uneasy behind the wheel at a saturated Spa circuit last month.
“In Spa I thought that if it rained it was going to be really good,” Smolyar reflected. “In Qualifying, it was P3 which was really promising, but in the race, we just never had a quick car. Now I think about Spa, I don’t know if I want a wet session!
“I don’t know why, this year we haven’t been as strong as last year in the wet sessions. That’s really strange. I don’t think we have enough time to look into it: it’s already the last round of the season.
“I just really hope we have good racing at least because Zandvoort was a bit boring from my side. So I really hope we have some action on the track.”