Will Mercedes stay unbeaten for the tenth time in Russia?
As Formula 1 returns to Sochi this weekend, it will be the tenth running of the Russian Grand Prix, and the eighth since the Formula 1 World Championship introduction in 1950. Russia initially hosted two grands prix in 1913 and 1914 at a circuit in St. Petersburg. The first race was won by home driver Georgy Suvorin while German Willy Scholl won the following year, with both running Benz-manufactured cars. The event was subsequently abandoned due to the First World War and Russian Civil War outbreaks.
The grand prix eventually returned after a century-long hiatus, held in the newly built Sochi Autodrom at the resort city of Sochi. It became Russia’s inaugural grand prix event in the Formula 1 era, where Mercedes-Benz once again took the race victory in the hands of Lewis Hamilton and teammate Nico Rosberg sealing a 1-2 finish for the team, while Valtteri Bottas rounded off the podium for Williams. The 2015 event in turn had Rosberg in the lead, before a faulty throttle forced him to retire from the race, handing Hamilton the lead. The Brit took his second consecutive Russian GP victory ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, and Sergio Perez unexpectedly took the final podium spot after a last lap battle between Bottas and Raikkonen ended in a collision, eliminating Bottas while Raikkonen limped to a 5th place finish, before being docked 3 positions after being given a time penalty. The next four events were still won by Mercedes, with Bottas and Hamilton taking two wins each.
Bottas is currently one of the most successful drivers in Sochi, finishing on the podium five times of his seven appearances there, which includes two victories. It is also the track where he took his maiden F1 victory, in only his fourth race with Mercedes. Despite Hamilton having the better overall records, he has been outperformed by Bottas since they became teammates in 2017. A notable moment happened during the 2018 event, where Bottas (who effectively had the race lead) was controversially ordered to let Hamilton pass in order to aid the Briton’s title chances against Ferrari’s Vettel. While Hamilton won once again in 2019, Bottas bounced back to retake the the throne a year later.
The Finn is currently one of the favorites to win this weekend, where besides often being the fastest driver in Sochi, he is also currently on top form after a strong weekend in Monza where he topped qualifying, won the Sprint, and fought to a podium finish after an engine penalty forced him to start from the back of the grid. Lewis Hamilton will also be a tough man to beat, as he is currently 5 points behind Verstappen in the championship standings and will be highly motivated to beat the Dutchman and regain the title lead in Mercedes’ stronghold. It will also be aided by Verstappen’s 3-place grid penalty he earned for colliding with Hamilton, and it is yet to be known whether Red Bull will take additional penalties to allow themselves more component changes throughout the weekend.
Will Mercedes continue their unbeaten run in Russia? Will Red Bull end the Silver Arrows’ dominance? Or does another surprise await us like McLaren did in Monza?
Featured Image – Sochi Autodrom