F1 moves away from classic old school circuit to the modern street circuit, gravel trap to asphalt, Mugello to Sochi and Italy to Russia for the round 10 of the 2020 F1 season. The circuit of 5.834 km, which is located at the Olympic park has 18 turns with front right tyre work the hardest. Pirelli have allocated softest compounds for the Russian GP with C3, C4 and C5. The weather for the race weekend is expected to be around 25 – 28C, and the chance of rain is unlikely.
The slipstream effect comes into place since the grid to the first braking point is around 900 meters. So starting on pole position always tend to have a disadvantage over the second-placed car on the grid with only 2 wins have come from the pole position. Drivers starting on the second place have won 3 races so far. And 3rd placed grid is the lowest to ever win in the Russian GP. Moreover, The same three drivers have never stood on the rostrum together again in the Russian GP.
This weekend’s race has a lot to look forward as the season is ready to kick start its second half.
Mercedes – Russian Domination
Mercedes have dominated by winning all races and took 4 pole positions in the Russian GP. They have amassed 325 points by winning 7 out of 9 races this season. Moreover, both their cars have missed out on podium only once so far this season. Mercedes would be determined to continue their domination in their Russian territory and increase their championship credentials. Should Mercedes allow their drivers to race against each other, we are in for a mouth-watering clash between them.
Lewis Hamilton has 4 wins in the Russian GP, makes him the most successful driver at the Sochi International Circuit. On top of it, he has missed out on the Russian GP podium only once, where he finished 4th in 2017. He drove one of his best races in the 2016 Russian GP, where he started the race on 10th and finished on 2nd. Moreover, he would be aiming to increase his championship lead and also equal Micheal Schumacher’s 91 races by winning this weekend’s race. The win would also mark hat-trick of wins for him in the Russian GP.
However, his teammate Valtteri Bottas is having a dismal season so far. He’s already 55 points adrift of Lewis Hamilton. Also, Max Verstappen is only 25 points behind him. Valtteri Bottas has last won a race in the first round of 2020 in Austrian GP. Sochi is a happy hunting circuit for Valtteri Bottas, where he won his first win, and his record in the Russian GP stands 1 win and 3 podium finishes, wherein 1 podium finish came with Williams in 2014. Furthermore, his qualifying performance has been exceptional with a pole position, a second-place start and 4 second row start. Although Valtteri Bottas has taken only two pole positions compared to Lewis Hamilton’s 7 this season, the qualifying pace between both drivers is just 0.234s this season. Valtteri Bottas will not be bowed even if he misses out on the pole position to Lewis Hamilton, as he would like to take advantage of the slipstream during the race start and renew the championship rivalry.
Red Bull Racing
Red Bull Racing are coming to Russia with 152 points adrift of the championship leader Mercedes. Sochi International Circuit has never been a happy hunting place, where they never qualified nor finished the race in the top 3. Their best grid slot and the race finish is 5th and 4th respectively. As Ferrari struggling to finish on the podium places, Red Bull Racing would like to grab this opportunity and get their first Russian GP podium.
Max Verstappen has failed to finish the last two races due to a car issue and an accident respectively. Last time Max Verstappen failed to score points in 3 races in a row was in 2017. Max Verstappen could be determined not to repeat the same and put pressure on Valtteri Bottas for the second place in the championship.
Alex Albon, who is fresh off his first-ever podium at Mugello, had one of his best races last season at Russia, where he started on 20th and finished on 5th. A podium or a good result at Russia would allow him to cement the Red Bull Drivers slot beside Max Verstappen for the next season.
Based on their 2020 standard, Ferrari had a decent race at Mugello, where they finished 8th and 10th. They are currently 6th in the Championship standings, 40 points adrift of 3rd placed McLaren. The Russian GPs has been reasonably happier weekends for Ferrari so far, where they are the only team except Mercedes to register a pole position. They qualified on pole positions in 2017 and 2019. Moreover, they are the only team to step on the podium at Russia alongside Mercedes, defunct Force India and Williams. With new minor upgrades to the race, Ferrari could like have a go at their mid-field rivals this weekend.
McLaren are having their best season since 2012, where they amassed 106 points including 2 podiums so far. They are ahead of their nearest rival Racing Point by 14 points. McLaren have never finished the race at Russia in the top 4 since 2014, where Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen finished 4th and 5th. Their best qualifying session also was in 2014 with a 4th. A strong performance at Russia will allow McLaren to stretch the gap to their rivals for the battle of 3rd place.
Carlos Sainz has finished on points in the Russian GP only once in his career. With Topsy turvy season so far, he needs a strong result in Russian GP to put Mugello disappointment behind. Meanwhile, Lando Norris has scored 65 points and 4th in the championship. He scored points for 6 races in a row and would be keen to carry the momentum to get a good result.
Racing Points after the re-brand from Force India, have competed only once at Russia, where they finished 7th and 11th in the race. Racing Point have scored 92 points so far as they look to mount pressure on McLaren for the 3rd place in the constructors’ championship before Aston Martin rebranding next year.
The experience of their outcast Sergio Perez could be key this weekend as he never finished outside of points and accumulated one podium to his name in the Russian GP. However, his teammate Lance Stroll has never scored a point in the Russian GP with his best finish being 11th position.
Renault have competed in 4 races in Russian GP after their comeback in 2016. They have never finished nor qualified in the top 5 in their 4 attempts with their best qualifying and race finish being 6th and 7th. With 23 points separating them and McLaren, another slip could end their fight for the 3rd spot in the constructor’s championship.
Their driver Daniel Ricciardo had 2 DNFs and twice finished outside of points at Russian. His best race finish at the circuit is only 6th position in 2018. After missing out on the elusive podium for Renault and a tattoo for Cyril Abitetoul, Daniel Ricciardo would love to have a good result this weekend. Also, his teammate Esteban Ocon, after a brake failure in the Tuscan GP, is hoping to bounce back with a solid race to his name in the Russian GP.
Alpha Tauri, formerly Torros Rosso, have scored points in the Russian GP on only a couple of occasions with 10th place being their best finish. Alpha Tauri have scored 53 points, 13 behind Ferrari this season. On top of it, they have missed out on points only once this season. However, their both drivers have finished on points together in a race only once this season.
Alpha Tauri need their race winner, Pierre Gasly to step up after a disastrous weekend at Mugello, in a bid to close the gap on Ferrari. Meanwhile, under pressure, Daniil Kvyat, who has scored only 10 points compared to his teammate’s 43 points and out-qualified his teammate only once this season, is determined to prove that he’s the right man for Alpha Tauri by putting in a solid performance this weekend.
What to expect from the bottom 3?
Alfa Romeo have scored 4 points this season with two 9th place finish. As Kimi Raikkonen’s seat looks secured for another season, it’s Antonio Giovinazzi, who is under pressure to perform. Having out-qualified by his teammate in all 9 races this season and 2 retirements to his name, Antonio Giovinazzi is looking to have a better weekend to have any hope of securing a seat for the next season.
Haas are enduring a season to forget. Their only positives of this season are their gamble and 10th place finish in the Hungarian GP. Kevin Magnussen has finished only 4 races this season including Haas’ only point. The qualifying battle is tight between the teammates. With Haas yet to finalize their line up for the next season, and availability of Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg means the pressure is on their drivers to perform to keep their seat alive for the next season.
Williams are the only team other than Mercedes, Ferrari and Force India to step on the Russian GP podium. They don’t stand a chance to repeat the feat this year. It’s highly likely that they could be enduring another difficult weekend. However, George Russell and Nicholas Latifi would be keen on finishing above Haas this weekend.