Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Hungaroring, 2018

Can Vettel revive his title hopes? Five Russian GP talking points

2018 Russian Grand Prix

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Will the championship fight swing towards Sebastian Vettel or Lewis Hamilton? Will Sochi finally produce a good race?

Here are the Russian Grand Prix talking points.

Can Vettel get back in the title fight?

Lewis Hamilton’s seventh victory of the season in Singapore gave him a 40-point championship lead. Although he can’t win the title this weekend, he will cross a significant threshold if Vettel fails to take at least five points off him: Hamilton would be in a position where finishing second in all the remaining races would guarantee him the title even if Vettel won every time.

The Mercedes driver’s victories in four of the last five race weekends have been from the top drawer. Yet it’s easy to forget that in Spa, Vettel was able to win despite starting from behind. He still has the potential to deny Hamilton the championship.

Sochi’s long straights should play to the Ferrari’s strong top speed advantage and put him in the frame for victory again. His hopes of beating Hamilton to a fifth title are dwindling, but they’re far from over.

The other two

While Hamilton and Vettel have notched up a dozen victories between them, their team mates remain win-less so far this year. And with Mercedes and Ferrari likely to prefer their leading drivers in the championship at this stage, the prospects of a win for Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas don’t look great.

But while Bottas will be back in the cockpit of a Mercedes next year, Raikkonen won’t be beholden to Ferrari in a few races’ time. So it wouldn’t be hard to understand why ending his five-year win-less streak would matter an awful lot more to him than propping up his team mates’ faltering title bid.

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Sirotkin’s home chances

Sergey Sirotkin, Williams, Spa-Francorchamps, 2018
Sirotkin finally gets to race at home
This will be the fourth time Sergey Sirotkin has participated in the Russian Grand Prix weekend but his first opportunity to start the race. He drove in practice for Sauber at Sochi’s first race four years ago and made two subsequent outings for Renault.

Last year technical problems limited him to just two laps in front of his home crowd. His prospects of success in the Williams aren’t an awful lot better. However the combination of long straights and short, slow corners suited the FW41 well in Azerbaijan, so perhaps he will have an outside chance of adding to his points tally at home.

Ericsson’s exit

Since the last race weekend Marcus Ericsson has learned he will not race in F1 next year. The second seat at Sauber has gone to Antonio Giovinazzi.

Ericsson will remain with the team in a non-racing capacity next year. In the meantime he and team mate Charles Leclerc have a nine-point gap to rivals Toro Rosso to close down. Sauber’s Ferrari power unit advantage should help them make progress here.

Will Sochi produce a good race?

The Sochi Autodrom has not gained a reputation for great racing. Out of the 28 circuits F1 has raced at since 2008, it has the lowest average score on Rate the Race.

Will that change this year? The race’s return to a late-season calendar slot is likely to make little difference. The low level of track abrasion has generally favoured conservative tyre strategies, and while the addition of the hyper-soft tyre may change that, it wasn’t exactly successful in Singapore.

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2018 so far

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2018 Russian Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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27 comments on “Can Vettel revive his title hopes? Five Russian GP talking points”

  1. Vettel needs to dominate this weekend to build up some momentum. Ferrari should be favourites here with their power advantage and this being one of Lewis’ weaker circuit. With the Bulls taking grid penalties it will be a direct fight btwn Merc and Ferrari and Ferrari need to come out on top.

    1. Let me go out on a limb and make a prediction.

      I predict a Bottas Win, with Lewis second and Vettel third.

      [Could we make this a thing..?]

      1. Depending on how the race pans out I seriously doubt Mercedes would give Bottas a win if it’s a safe Mercedes 1-2. The 7 points difference is massive at this stage of the season and Bottas has already said he’d help. Of course if Bottas runs away out front while Hamilton fights with others it could be possible. But even with a 20second lead if it’s safe to switch them I think Mercedes will.

        1. I disagree, I’m sure mercedes will bottas win if he’s in front and isn’t holding up hamilton, they don’t say it but they’re quite sure they’ll win the title already, hamilton doesn’t need more points.

          1. will let* ofc

    2. I’m not convinced any longer that Ferrari has a power advantage, and for sure the RBR’s starting from the back is a bonus for SV and I’m surprised it’s not mentioned as one of the key talking points of the weekend. Last race RBR and Max cost SV some valuable points which they won’t be there to do this weekend. Especially with Max fairly regularly hanging out with the big boys on the grid, sometimes ahead of KR and VB in his distant third place car in the WCC, SV should be considering his starting spot in Russia a huge relief.

      1. Did you see Monza and Spa @robbie ? Ferrari will be the car to beat this weekend and Hamilton isn’t the best in Russia so Vettel has a chamce to make up some points.

        1. @Tom Somehow I’m not holding my breath for that anymore, as things just haven’t gone as many thought they would have at several races. Would be nice though for the sake of the Championship of course, so absolutely I do hope SV grabs 25 points. Hope you’re right.

  2. Can Vettel get back in the title fight? – Yes, but it’d need bad luck to start to occur on Hamilton’s side more now.
    Will Sochi produce a good race? – I doubt it although it’d be a nice surprise if it did produce something similar it did in 2015. I have low expectations for this circuit every year due to historical standards, but we shall wait and see.

  3. How many more races does Ferrari need to lose in order not to be favourites?

    1. It really depends on how they lose. eg how many points they drop.

      If in the next three races Lewis points advantage increases by an extra 36 points to 76 points, then he would have the championship even with 3 potential wins to be decided. That’s 12 points per race, eg 3 positions behind Hamilton, or Bottas and the two Redbulls ;) .

      If that’s a bit much, then if hamilton had 51 points spread over vettel with 2 races to remaining, that would only needing an extra 11 points over the next 4 races, which is very doable.

      This would leave 2 races for Mercedes to try and secure Bottas a win ;)

  4. Lewis and Mercedes can pretty much cruise to the win now I suspect, even a breakdown / grid penalty / accident etc shouldn’t destroy their chances.

    Vettel has the necessary skills in my opinion. I also believe he has a car capable of winning.
    What he needs now though is quite a lot of luck and to stop making bad decisions/moves on the race track.

    I expect the Fiendish Finns to just do the job they are supposed to. If Kimi had been retiring then there might have been some fun but I doubt he will annoy Ferrari now.

  5. Instead of “Can Vettel get back in the title fight?”, it should be “How will Vettel and Ferrari implode this time” #disappointedFerrariFan

    1. Yes, you can count on their strategists to do the opposite of what they did when MS.

  6. How amazing would it be for the championship run in if Vettel wins and Hamilton DNF’s? I think it would be great for the sport as after Singapore the interest seemed to drain from this years championship.

    1. Amazing isn’t the word.

      If something like that happened F1 would be seen as a farce.
      Spectors would leave the sport in droves. Talent should win out, not chance or misfortune.

      1. A farce?

        Unreliability is part of the sport, engines blow up and drivers crash. I believe Hamilton will win the championship but if he was to DNF and Vettel win at least it would keep the remaining races interesting for fans.

        1. I agree. Vettel should suffer his first consequential dnf of the season this weekend.

    2. Personally I think it’s pathetic that people would love to see a better driver DNF so the worse one can catch up and make it a closer Championship. Call me old fashioned but I like the best driver to win the Championship.

      Vettel has thrown away a win of his own and made more mistakes. Why you’d wish him to get a 25 point bonus for that is beyond me.

      1. The best driver not always wins the championship, and if you’re going to call yourself “old fashioned”, then you should already know this.

  7. Vettel is done. The WDC is over already, confirmation is just a matter of time.
    As for the race itself, it’s more likely to the Wingman takes the win. A duly driver for a dull track.

  8. I fail to get it:

    there are five more races and the difference is 40 points. Assuming Vettel wins all remaining races, if Hamilton manages to finish second at each one he still wins the championship by 5 points.

    So, in fact the WDC is practically over, unless reliability problems produces DNFs for Hamilton.

    1. What you fail to get is there is 6 races left not 5

    2. Also, why are we assuming hamilton always gets 2nd when vettel wins? When hamilton wins very often vettel is not on 2nd place, so this should already say enough about who’s driving better this year.

      1. 4 / 15 races this season have finished with a HAM/VET 1 – 2 so its certainly not the most regular outcome, especially compared to the HAM/ROS era.

        Things look more glum when you look at Vettel’s wins however. Of the 5 races Vettel has won so far Hamilton has finished 2nd in 3, and there were extenuating circumstances in the other 2 (gearbox penalty in BAH and cooling mechanical failure in CAN) so statistically* speaking if Vettel wins only mechanical issues will stop Hamilton taking second.

        *default caveat about statistics

  9. This track is not regarded as Ferrari’s forte, but than again Singapore bit them hard where they actually thought it will be an easy Ferrari 1-2, so you never know. But i think Hamilton will have a better ally in Bottas, who is usually very strong in Sochi, as he proved so in the past few years in both Mercedes or Williams.

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