Nico Rosberg will look to continue his incredible start to the 2016 Formula One season with a fourth straight win, while Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton hopes to keep his perfect run at the Russian Grand Prix alive.
Only two Formula One races have been held at the Sochi Autodrom, and the reigning world champion won both of those contests. He’s yet to get the better of Rosberg in 2016, however.
The German has now won six straight races dating back to last season and is the clear favourite to win this year’s title. If Hamilton is to catch Rosberg, Sochi would be a good place to start.
Here’s a look at the list of drivers for the Russian Grand Prix:
|Russian GP Drivers' List|
|Team||Driver 1||Driver 2|
|Scuderia Ferrari||Sebastian Vettel||Kimi Raikkonen|
|Sahara Force India Formula One Team||Sergio Perez||Nico Hulkenberg|
|Haas F1 Team||Romain Grosjean||Esteban Gutierrez|
|McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team||Fernando Alonso||Jenson Button|
|Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team||Lewis Hamilton||Nico Rosberg|
|Manor Racing MRT||Rio Haryanto||Pascal Wehrlein|
|Red Bull Racing||Daniel Ricciardo||Daniil Kvyat|
|Renault Sport Formula One Team||Kevin Magnussen||Jolyon Palmer|
|Sauber F1 Team||Marcus Ericsson||Felipe Nasr|
|Scuderia Toro Rosso||Max Verstappen||Carlos Sainz Jr.|
|Williams Martini Racing||Felipe Massa||Valtteri Bottas|
Sky Sports will carry full coverage of the race for UK viewers, while American viewers will be able to tune in to CNBC. Sky’s broadcast will start at 11:30 a.m. BST on Sunday, while CNBC’s broadcast starts at 7 a.m. ET. The race will start at 12 p.m. BST/7 a.m. ET.
Mercedes’ dominance has predictably carried over into the 2016 season, and with Ferrari stumbling out of the starting blocks, the Silver Arrows are expected to once again steal the show in Russia.
To make matters worse for the Scuderia, Sebastian Vettel was handed a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change, per William Esler and James Galloway of Sky Sports. The gearbox was damaged during Vettel’s collision with team-mate Kimi Raikkonen during the Chinese Grand Prix.
According to the report, Hamilton also had a new gearbox fitted, but because he already had his replaced in China, he will not suffer a similar penalty.
That’s good news for the Brit, who is in desperate need for a positive result and can’t afford to start another race weekend on the back foot. Sochi’s Autodrom is a street circuit, and while it’s not as narrow as similar tracks, it doesn’t provide as many opportunities to overtake opponents as traditional circuits do.
That makes the qualifying sessions vital, and Rosberg seems primed to do well in qualification, topping the timesheets during the first practice session, per BBC Sport’s Andrew Benson.
Hamilton dominated the second session, going almost a full second faster on the supersofts, per Sky Sports’ Matthew Morlidge.
Hamilton spun out in that session, and he told Sky Sports’ William Esler he hopes there won’t be too many similar incidents this weekend:
There are loads of things that can come in the way. I am hoping for a clean weekend, we will see.
[…] Normally we do two runs, one on each tyre, but I destroyed one set with a spin so I had just the one run at the end. But it went well, seemed to be quite smooth and we seemed to have good pace.
Rosberg already leads Hamilton by 36 points in the standings, with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo three points behind the Brit, and he has to do better than his team-mate in Russia to grab some much-needed momentum.
Mercedes’ advantage in raw engine power will be somewhat negated by the twisty circuit in Sochi, so other teams will come into play as well.
These are the kinds of races where the likes of Red Bull and Williams can shine and perhaps spring an upset, and if one of the Mercedes drivers gets caught behind a slower car, he could end up losing a lot of time.
A good qualification session and a strong start are key, and, fortunately for Hamilton, those are areas he excels in. The Brit has won both races in Sochi for a reason, but Rosberg’s strong form means he won’t have it easy this time around.