Russian Grand Prix Preview5 min read
Lewis Hamilton holds a 40 point lead over Sebastian Vettel in the title race, going into a race that has only ever been won by a Mercedes. Will Hamilton be running out to another victory, or can Ferrari mount a much needed comeback in the Russian Grand Prix?
Things have not been going well for the Maranello marque of late. They should have won the both the Italian Grand Prix and the Singapore Grand Prix… Lewis Hamilton won both. The bad news is that Ferrari have never won the Russian Grand Prix. However, the good news is that Vettel came within a second of winning with last year’s car – this year’s is a clear step-up from that. He has also had an average qualifying position of 2.13, the best of any driver in the field, so last year’s pole sitter could well be worth a shot for qualifying too. Speaking of qualifying, last year’s top three were separated by under 0.100 of a second. I’m backing it to be very tight at the front again as both the Mercedes of Hamilton and the Ferrari of Vettel make full use of their “party modes.”
Bottas the Beast
Mercedes have struggled at tracks that they have previously been very strong at this year, meaning there’s still a great opportunity for them to close the gap back to the Silver Arrows. Bottas could well be a fly in their ointment though, as he has a beast of a record at the Russian Grand Prix. He won on the streets of Sochi last year to claim his maiden victory. Bottas also finished fourth in 2014, should have been on the podium in 2015 but was speared off the track on the last lap by Raikkonen, and, of course, drove a flawless race to hold on to his third place starting spot and set the fastest lap.
That said, I wouldn’t be backing Bottas for the moment though, as he’s openly said that he’ll be playing the team game from now on. If he’s in a position to help Hamilton, he will, even if this means giving up a sure win or podium finish.
What of Hamilton?
Hamilton would be the easy pick for the weekend, he’s won twice in Sochi and has momentum on his side. But in a straight fight against Vettel I can’t see him winning this weekend. Hamilton, with his 40-point lead, has a reasonably large cushion that protects him at this stage of the season. He won’t want to risk having a pointless weekend as this could wipe out more than half of this buffer. For this reason, I can see that, if push comes to shove, Hamilton will protect his car over going for the win.
No Birthday Win for Verstappen
Max Verstappen turns 21 on Sunday, but I’m not expecting a good weekend for him or his teammate, Ricciardo. Team boss Cristian Horner said that they will be running fresh old-spec engines for the Russian Grand Prix, so it’s likely to be one for the team to forget this weekend. Even if it wasn’t for this, it may not have been a great weekend anyway. Their highest ever finish at the Russian Grand Prix has been fifth, with Daniel Ricciardo not having made the top six ever.
Russian Grand Prix Tips
Sebastian Vettel fastest qualifier at
Qualifying winning margin Under 0.1 seconds at
Sebastian Vettel to win the race at