Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes are coming off back to back victories as they look to take a strangle hold on the Formula 1 championship, and they arrive in Russia knowing they have never been beaten.
Mercedes have won all four of the Russian Grand Prix’s hosted in Sochi’s Olympic Park, with Hamilton claiming two of those.
That leaves rivals Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari with work to do, with just six races remaining this season.
Vettel admits they need to start winning, saying: “”Anything is possible. I’m not aiming to win all six races. I’m aiming to win here and then we go to the next one.
“It is very simple from where we are. We are some points behind and we need to catch up to make sure we stay there.
“The best way to do that is to finish ahead and ideally ahead of everybody. The plan doesn’t change. Obviously at this point we try to give it everything we have and I still believe we have a chance.”
— Scuderia Ferrari (@ScuderiaFerrari) September 25, 2018
World champion Hamilton insists that the title is far from done, despite holding a 40-point advantage in the Drivers’ Championship.
“I don’t think you ever have one hand on it,” he said. “You either have both hands on it or you don’t.
“There is still a long way to go, a lot of points available, six races is still a lot of races.
“We’re just head down and everyone is working hard to improve the car. The job is still exactly the same and the approach is still exactly the same.”
Going into the weekend and it will be a Mercedes-Ferrari shoot-out as Red Bull will have both drivers starting from the rear of the grid as both Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo will be taking on new engines.
RUSSIA GRAND PRIX – ROUND 16
Location: Sochi Autodrom, Russia
Track size: 3.63 miles with 18 turns
Number of laps: 53
2017 winner: Valterri Bottas – Mercedes
Lap record holder: Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) – 1:36.844
Australian Grand Prix – Winner: Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
Bahrain Grand Prix – Winner: Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
China Grand Prix – Winner: Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull)
Azerbaijan Grand Prix – Winner: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
Spain Grand Prix – Winner: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
Monaco Grand Prix – Winner: Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull)
Canada Grand Prix – Winner: Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
France Grand Prix – Winner: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
Austria Grand Prix – Winner: Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
British Grand Prix – Winner: Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
German Grand Prix – Winner: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
Hungary Grand Prix – Winner: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
Belgium Grand Prix – Winner: Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
Italy Grand Prix – Winner: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
Singapore Grand Prix – Winner: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
1 Lewis Hamilton GBR MERCEDES 281
2 Sebastian Vettel GER FERRARI 241
3 Kimi Räikkönen FIN FERRARI 174
4 Valtteri Bottas FIN MERCEDES 171
5 Max Verstappen NED RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 148
6 Daniel Ricciardo AUS RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 126
7 Nico Hulkenberg GER RENAULT 53
8 Fernando Alonso ESP MCLAREN RENAULT 50
9 Kevin Magnussen DEN HAAS FERRARI 49
10 Sergio Perez MEX FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 46
11 Esteban Ocon FRA FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 45
12 Carlos Sainz ESP RENAULT 38
13 Pierre Gasly FRA SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA 28
14 Romain Grosjean FRA HAAS FERRARI 27
15 Charles Leclerc MON SAUBER FERRARI 15
16 Stoffel Vandoorne BEL MCLAREN RENAULT 8
17 Lance Stroll CAN WILLIAMS MERCEDES 6
18 Marcus Ericsson SWE SAUBER FERRARI 6
19 Brendon Hartley NZL SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA 2
20 Sergey Sirotkin RUS WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1
1 MERCEDES 452
2 FERRARI 415
3 RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 274
4 RENAULT 91
5 HAAS FERRARI 76
6 MCLAREN RENAULT 58
7 FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 32
8 SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA 30
9 SAUBER FERRARI 21
10 WILLIAMS MERCEDES 7
We also spoke with Alistair Gill of Unibet to get their views on the GP
With the title now looking like his to lose, Lewis Hamilton once again starts the Russian weekend as the favourite across the board, 6/4 to be quickest in Free Practice, 3/5 to take Pole and Evens to win on Sunday. He also now finds himself a very short priced favourite for the Drivers’ Championship at 1/6.
With both Red Bulls expected to take grid penalties for new engine parts, there may be some value in either Valteri Bottas or Kimi Raikkonen finishing on the podium, at 7/10 and 4/5 respectively. Or, for the more adventurous and ‘future predictors’, if Sebastian Vettel is likely to make another race ending mistake, which wouldn’t be out of character lately, Unibet offer both Bottas and Raikkonnen to finish on the podium at 11/5