After Ferrari’s Singapore surprise, Formula 1 heads direct to Sochi for the Russian Grand Prix this weekend.
That’s right, the Italian team threw all predictions out of the window at Marina Bay as Sebastian Vettel led the team’s first 1-2 finish since Hungary 2018, leaving their rivals in shock.
The question is, does this mean Ferrari are now back on Mercedes’ level or will the Silver Arrows rise up on the Black Sea coast?
About the race:
Winding its way around the venues for the 2014 Winter Olympics, the Sochi Autodrom may be in another incredible setting, but it hasn’t managed to capture the imagination of F1 fans over the past five years.
Perhaps one reason for that is this race has been dominated by just one team, Mercedes.
Lewis Hamilton has the most victories with three, while Nico Rosberg and Valtteri Bottas claimed the other two.
Last year, Ferrari did push the German manufacturer harder, with Sebastian Vettel’s presence leading Mercedes to use team orders, asking Bottas to give up the win to Hamilton.
And it is foreseeable, based on their performance in Singapore, that they can be competitive again this weekend.
As for the circuit itself, it is not the most exciting mostly consisting of 90-degree corners initially, medium-speed sweeps in the middle and a slow, technical sector at the end.
Indeed, the only unique feature is the long Turn 4 which circles the 2014 Olympic cauldron but is easily full throttle for modern F1 cars.
It is a layout though which has seen racing gradually improve and there’s plenty of interesting picks for you to consider when shaping your fantasy teams this weekend.
Top Pick: Mercedes ($31.6m)
A nip and tuck battle is on the cards this weekend as the power of Ferrari with their improved cornering try to take on might of Mercedes.
However, given their history in Sochi plus with Valtteri Bottas a specialist at this circuit, it is likely they will be stronger than they were in Singapore.
As a result, anything other than another 1-2 would be a bit of a surprise.
Medium pick: Carlos Sainz ($8.5m)
A collision with Nico Hulkenberg ended what had been a strong weekend for Sainz in Singapore and indeed, teammate Lando Norris backed up McLaren’s advantage by finishing ‘best of the rest’ in seventh.
In Russia, their performance is only likely to get stronger, that’s why the Spaniard is again the medium pick and this weekend he also comes $0.5m cheaper.
Low pick: Antonio Giovinazzi ($6.3m)
McLaren’s pace means Norris at $5.9m is a must-have, but, despite an underwhelming year to date, Giovinazzi is starting to produce the race performances to back up his qualifying speed, even out-pacing his teammate Kimi Raikkonen.
Last year, his Alfa Romeo team was also particularly strong in Sochi, so if he can continue his recent form, the Italian is certainly one to consider.
Valtteri Bottas ($21m)
As already mentioned, Bottas has always performed well in Sochi, whether it be in a Williams or a Mercedes and without last year’s team order would have won this race for the second straight year.
Given he is also the cheapest of the top five drivers, including the Finn alongside Mercedes as the constructor in your fantasy team is almost certainly a winning combination.
Sergio Perez ($9.8m)
Singapore was a little underwhelming from Racing Point as their upgrades didn’t bring a massive improvement and eventually Perez retired through a technical failure.
However, with time to analyse the developments and adjust, it would be expected that the team can be more competitive in Russia.
Therefore, Perez, who qualified 11th last weekend, may well take a step into the points this weekend.