Russian GP
September 28 - 30, 2018
Sochi Autodrom
Race Winner
Lewis Hamilton
1 Pit
Russian GP
Free Practice 1
Free Practice 2
Free Practice 3

Russian Grand Prix preview: No more mistakes or excuses for Ferrari


Jennie Gow and Maurice Hamilton discuss how the Russian circuit favours the Ferrari cars over Mercedes, so the pressure will be on Sebastian Vettel to win.

A win on the streets of Singapore has given Lewis Hamilton a 40-point lead in the drivers' standings and left Sebastian Vettel desperate for victory in Russia.

Focus on ... last-chance saloon for Sebastian Vettel?

If 2017 was the season of what-ifs for Ferrari then 2018 has to be the year the Italian team simply shot itself in the foot.

The Scuderia has had the fastest car at the majority of races this year yet have continued to find new ways to throw points away. In fact, we calculated that Sebastian Vettel should be on the cusp of a fifth world championship, with six races remaining. However, heading into the Russian Grand Prix weekend, Vettel finds himself 40 points adrift of leader Lewis Hamilton while Ferrari trails Mercedes by 37 points in the constructors' standings.

Amazingly, Vettel was only nine points further behind at the same stage of the 2015 season, a year which was completely dominated by Mercedes as Ferrari managed to score just three wins. This highlights how much Ferrari has failed to capitalise in 2018 and with just six races left to run, it's a matter of now or never.

Should Ferrari fail to win in Sochi, and particularly if Hamilton salutes yet again, it could effectively spell game over in both championships. There is enormous pressure on the team, particularly Vettel, this weekend in what is now essentially a must-win race.

In his four previous starts in Russia, Vettel has finished P2 twice (2015, 2017), eighth, as well as suffering a DNF in 2016. Oh what he would give to break through with a win this weekend.

After Lewis Hamilton's win in Singapore,Sebastian Vettel trails him by 40 points in the drivers' championship.
After Lewis Hamilton's win in Singapore,Sebastian Vettel trails him by 40 points in the drivers' championship.
Mark Thompson/Getty Images

In need of a win? Valtteri Bottas

This weekend sees Valtteri Bottas return to the scene of where he claimed his first win in Formula One.

The Mercedes driver was a class above in Sochi last year, superbly holding off Vettel in the closing stages. He went on to claim further victories in Austria and Abu Dhabi but since the 2017 season finale, Bottas has gone 15 straight races without standing on the top step of the podium.

Bottas had his chances earlier in the year but a mix of poor fortune and conservative driving meant he was unable to score a win. But in recent times teammate Hamilton has been the dominant force, winning four of the past five races to take a commanding lead in the drivers' title.

Bottas will want to prove he is worthy of a Mercedes seat (and a one-year contract extension) before the season is out. Perhaps a return to Russia is exactly what the doctor ordered.

In need of points? Williams

The Singapore Grand Prix was an absolute disaster weekend for Williams. Both Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin qualified at the back of the grid in Marina Bay, over 1.4s slower than P18's Stoffel Vandoorne. It was an obvious low point in what has been a trying season for the nine times world champions.

With more than two thirds of the season in the books, Williams sits last on the constructors' championship table with just seven points, 14 adrift of Sauber in ninth place. However, they will likely have a decent chance of adding to their rather underwhelming total this weekend.

Russia has been a happy hunting ground for Williams since it was added to the calendar in 2014. Bottas claimed a podium in the inaugural race, before top five finishes followed in 2015 and 2016. 

Lance Stroll of Williams drives during the 2018 Singapore Grand Prix.
Lance Stroll of Williams drives during the 2018 Singapore Grand Prix.

Tyre talk

Available compounds: Soft, Ultra-soft, Hyper-soft

Pirelli's pointers:

  • The Sochi circuit was well-known for being very smooth and slippery when it made its debut in 2014, but since then the asphalt has matured.
  • Wear and degradation levels are generally low, but the hyper-soft is effectively two steps softer than the softest compound brought to Russia last year (2017's ultra-soft tyre).
  • The most demanding corner, which takes the most out of the tyres, is Turn 3: a multi-apex left-hander.
  • The front-right tyre works hardest over the course of the lap, which puts the emphasis on traction and braking.

Minimum starting pressures: Front 21.5psi, rear 21psi

Weather forecast

The 2018 edition of the Russian Grand Prix returns to its original autumn date after two years being run in the early summer months.

Expect the sun to still be shining in Sochi this weekend but some cloud cover should make things a tad cooler than in previous years. The forecast for the weekend is quite consistent with temperatures ranging between 22-24C from Friday through to Sunday.

Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes won the 2017 Russian Grand Prix ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari.
Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes won the 2017 Russian Grand Prix ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari.
Vyacheslav Prokofyev\TASS via Getty Image


It's no surprise to see Hamilton, who has won four of the past five races, as a 2-1 favourite in Russia while title-rival Vettel is at 5-4 for the race win.

Hamilton's win last time out in Singapore has seen him open up a 40 point lead in the drivers' standings and bookmakers see him as having one hand already on the trophy. He is paying 1-7 to win the title while Vettel is offering up odds of 4-1.

If you think Hamilton has broken his title rival and will continue on his way, why not back him at 40-1 to win the remaining six races in 2018?

ESPN's prediction

Hamilton is the form man and Vettel needs the win, but I'll go for something a little more left field and pick a man who enjoys the Sochi circuit and hasn't won in more than 10 months.

Winner: Valtteri Bottas

Bonus prediction: We will be saying the championship is back on after Russia.