Mercedes could set their longest losing streak of the V6 hybrid era – but Sochi has been one of their strongest tracks. Here are the Russian Grand Prix talking points.
Will Mercedes extend their losing streak…
Ferrari’s wins at Spa and Monza were not unexpected but Singapore was a real surprise. many will have left Monza wondering whether that was Ferrari’s last real chance of winning a race this season. But if the SF-90 can win on tracks as diverse as the ‘temple of speed’ and Marina Bay, perhaps there are quite a few more tracks it can succeed on as well.
…or their winning streak?
Sochi is a very happy hunting ground for the three-pointed Spa. Mercedes have been undefeated at this circuit since it joined the calendar in 2014, coincidentally the same year the V6 hybrid turbo power units were introduced.
As well as being a strong track for the team, it’s tended to be one of Valtteri Bottas’s better venues as well. He scored his first victory at this track in 2017, and would have won last year had Mercedes team ordered not intervened. He badly needs to do better this time if he’s to start cutting into Lewis Hamilton’s points lead.
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Is Vettel back to his best?
Sebastian Vettel said his victory in Singapore, his first for over 12 months, showed some had exaggerated how bad a period he had endured in between. That’s a debatable point – there were an awful lot of serious mistakes crammed into those 20-odd races – but the question now is whether his win has drawn a line under them.
The major question which remains unresolved is whether Vettel can wrest back the qualifying superiority from his team mate. Leclerc has held sway for the last eight races, and unless Vettel can turn the tables, he’s usually going to be on the back foot when it comes to strategy. During the race in Singapore it was clear he was still struggling to tame the SF-90’s rear end, but Leclerc seems to have it mastered at the moment.
McLaren vs Renault
The scrap for fourth in the constructors’ championship – ‘best of the rest’ honours – is well and truly on. Carlos Sainz Jnr and Nico Hulkenberg came to blows on the first lap in Singapore while Daniel Ricciardo was dinged by the stewards and Lando Norris came through to pick up the spoils.
Norris is back on a track he knows this weekend so expect another close fight between the four Renault-engined cars, all of which made it into Q3 last time out.
More Q3 chaos?
Qualifying in Singapore was all about getting clear air, but at Sochi the tow effect will be strong again. We can therefore expect to see drivers vying for a slipstream in qualifying. Hopefully this time all concerned will manage to avoid a repeat of Monza, though with no new rules in place as yet to prevent it, don’t hold your breath.
Time’s up for Sochi
As RaceFans revealed yesterday, this is likely to be F1’s penultimate visit to the Sochi Autodrom. With the best will in the world, it hasn’t proved a great venue in terms of the quality of racing it’s produced. The track is unchallenging and repetitive, the low abrasiveness of the surface makes for predictable strategies and the result is a venue which has the lowest average score from RaceFans readers in Rate the Race.
Will this year’s race be any better? The chance of rain offers hope for something less predictable than we’ve seen in previous seasons.
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2019 Russian Grand Prix
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- Ferrari are over-complicating their driver tactics, says Marko
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- Leclerc: Ferrari will ensure team orders are obeyed