Formula One returns for the second instalment of the Russian Grand Prix with a familiar scenario as a dominant Mercedes can wrap up the constructors’ title once again in Sochi.
While last year saw the championship secured with three rounds remaining, 2015 could see Mercedes go one better due to the addition of Mexico to the calendar.
– Russian Grand Prix: Circuit guide infographic
Three points more than Ferrari is all the team needs to secure back-to-back titles, and Lewis Hamilton will also be looking to move a big step closer to his third drivers’ championship.
Victory in Russia will open up the possibility of Hamilton becoming champion in Austin, but Mercedes is wary of a Singapore repeat on another street circuit with the same tyre compounds…
Mercedes did bounce back from its Singapore nightmare with a one-two in Japan, but Nico Rosberg was pushed hard by Sebastian Vettel as Ferrari showed it is still closing the gap.
Singapore is somewhat similar to Sochi in terms of layout and with Pirelli supplying the soft and supersoft tyres in order to avoid a repeat of last year’s dull one-stop race, Mercedes will need to be on its toes.
Two long straights – between the final corner and Turn 2 as well as from Turn 11 to 14 – are likely to hurt Red Bull and McLaren, but the former has shown it can be quick on the majority of tracks when it has a clean weekend.
Williams was more competitive in Japan and was Mercedes’ nearest challenger in Russia 12 months ago, while a resurgent Force India will look to continue its run of scoring points in every race since the summer break.
— Max Verstappen (@Max33Verstappen) October 7, 2015
Pole position: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), 1:38.513
Top three: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), Nico Rosberg (Mercedes), Valtteri Bottas (Williams)
Fastest lap: Valtteri Bottas (Williams), 1:40.896
SESSION TIMES (All times local)
FP1: 10:00 – 11:30
FP2: 14:00 – 15:30
FP3: 12:00 – 13:00
Qualifying: 15:00 – 16:00
— Romain Grosjean (@RGrosjean) October 7, 2015
With Sochi on a similar latitude as Monaco, it enjoys a largely mediterranean climate. However, this weekend is set to see unsettled weather and cool temperatures, with the biggest threat of rain currently on Friday during FP2.
Track temperatures are likely to be low throughout the weekend, which will make it difficult for the teams to perfect their set-ups on a circuit which offered very low grip throughout last year’s event.
1st – Sebastian Vettel
2nd – Lewis Hamilton
3rd – Kimi Raikkonen
F1 heads to the Sochi Autodrom to race around the home of the 2014 Winter Olympics on Sunday and here is a useful circuit guide infographic so you know will know the Russian Grand Prix track almost as well as Lewis Hamilton.
Formula One chief executive Bernie Ecclestone says he expects the sport to have new ownership by the end of the year and that three parties are currently interested.
– #360view: Change is needed to end one-horse race
It was reported over the summer that CVC Capital Partners, the private equity firm which has owned F1 for the last 10 years, was in talks with a US-Qatari bid to sell its 35.5 per cent controlling stake, while Ecclestone confirmed he would sell his five per cent stake as part of any deal.
And when asked on Tuesday about those negotiations, the 84-year-old told the Camp Beckenbauer Global Summit in Austria: "There has been a lot of interest and I would say there are three parties at the moment, where I would be surprised if one of them did not buy them (the shares) shortly."
When then asked what kind of timeframe in which he would expect to see a new owner in F1, Ecclestone said: "This year."
Reports in June said a deal potentially worth up to £5billion was being fronted by Stephen Ross, the US property tycoon who owns the Miami Dolphins, with the backing of Qatar Sports Investments – the Middle Eastern firm which owns French football club Paris St Germain.
The situation would appear to leave Ecclestone's future as the kingpin of Formula One in doubt.
But Max Mosley, former president of motor sport world governing body the FIA, said in June he did not think new ownership would bring an end to Ecclestone's reign.
"I think whatever happens, if it is taken over, I don't see Bernie's role changing unless he wants it to change because he is the person who has managed to sell it everywhere'', Mosley said.
"That would be my gut feeling. The fact is there is no-one else who could do the job as well.''