Title rivals Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen had a coming together for the second time this season and again it took place over a sprint race weekend. At July’s British Grand Prix, it was Verstappen who had his race ended prematurely after the duo made contact on the opening lap. However, the latest incident at Monza saw both drivers finish pointless after Verstappen’s car mounted the W12 Mercedes and Hamilton thankfully escaped without serious injury.
There’s no love lost between the pair as Verstappen increased his lead in the drivers’ standings to five points. For this weekend’s race in Sochi, Russia the Red Bull driver will hope to limit the damage despite being handed a three-place grid penalty for causing the Monza incident. Away from the Hamilton and Verstappen crash, McLaren scored a 1-2 victory at Monza, with Daniel Ricciardo claiming his first win for the British team.
What to Expect in Sochi, Russia
Hamilton and teammate Valtteri Bottas start as favourites in Sochi by virtue of the Mercedes winning every Russian GP since its inception in 2014. No other team has tasted victory at F1 architect, Hermann Tilke, designed track located at the Olympic Park. A combination of long straights and several 90-degree corners make up the 5.848 km-long Sochi Autodrom.
A banana peel this weekend could see rain affect practice, qualifying and Sunday’s race. For Friday’s two practice sessions there’s a 59% chance of rain, on Saturday the track will definitely be greasy as 100% chance is forecasted while on Sunday a 74% chance of rain is predicted. It might not be one-way traffic for Mercedes if the weather comes into play.
Verstappen is likely to opt for a new engine this weekend, and that will see him take a further penalty and therefore the pressure rests on teammate Sergio Perez to try and get into a point-scoring position. However, the Dutchman will look to use the long straights for overtaking and work his way through the field based on the strong straight-line performance of the Red Bull. Verstappen won’t start from pole position this weekend, despite seven of the last eight pole starts, due to his three-place grid penalty. Hamilton and Bottas may be favourites for pole position and should claim victory over Red Bull and any other teams by virtue of making the most of a track that fits their car like a glove.