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The Russian Grand Prix is held at the Sochi Autodrom, a street circuit built around the Olympic park in Sochi, Russia. While it’s a typical Herman Tilke-designed track, there are definitely some unique features. There is almost no camber in the corners here, and you can actually overtake as we have seen in past races. Let’s not forget that Raikkonen, Bottas and Perez battled all the way to the final lap last year.
The low grip track will have the teams trying to see how long they can make their super soft tyres last on Friday. Most teams expect these tyres to not only be the qualifying tyre of choice, but also the preferred race tyre.
However, all eyes will be on the Mercedes pair this weekend. With a hundred per cent record of three wins, Nico Rosberg has a healthy 36-point lead over his team-mate, Lewis Hamilton. While it’s still early in the season, the pressure is on for the current World Champion. It’s extremely imperative that he halts the Rosberg steamroller this weekend and preferably with a dominant weekend, like he used to churn out regularly last season. The battle between these two will really heat up this weekend. The intensity will crank up quite a bit – and I expect it to stay that way right until the very last lap of the race.
Ferrari has said they would have been in the battle for a race win, had they not clashed in the first corner in China. While I’m not so sure of that, I can say that we are all hoping they get a clean race, just so we can see how far off Mercedes they really are. Ferrari seems to be a bit closer to the Silver Arrows when they run on the super soft tyres, so that may just work in their favor.
Although, if Ferrari doesn’t have a great weekend, they will have to look over their shoulders – because Red Bull Racing are coming on strong. Russia shouldn’t be a track that plays to Red Bull’s strengths, but neither was China. They’re causing quite a stir in the paddock with their improved performances and I feel that it won’t be soon before they’ll be challenging for race wins.
As usual, behind these top three teams, it’s a really close fought battle between the rest of the field. Both Williams and Force India will be strong here again – but Toro Rosso, McLaren and Haas will be right there to keep them honest. Force India scored a memorable podium with Perez last year, and although they have really underperformed in the 2016 races thus far, we could be surprised with a big weekend.
Since Russia has moved from an autumn race on the calendar to a spring race this season, it could mean rain – and if that happens, anything is possible.
Catch the F1 Russia GP LIVE on Sun, May 1, 7:30PM (HKT) on FOX Sports