It’s another back-to-back for the Formula One drivers as they’ll head further west this weekend for the Russian Grand Prix. Last week, they were in the far south for a race on the streets of Singapore. Now, they’ll be further north for a race in Russia.
Here’s the race preview.
How To Tune In
Coverage – 6:30 a.m. ET
Lights Out – 7:05 a.m. ET
TV – ESPN 2
Distance – 53 Laps/192.459 Miles
Race – 16 of 21
Track – Sochi Autodrom
True Test For Mercedes To See If They Lost A Step
Mercedes drivers won the first eight races of the 2019 season. If you go back to last season, they reached victory in 10 straight races and 16 of their last 19 tries. Furthermore, six of those first eight Grand Prix’s this season, they came home 1-2.
But, over the last five races though, they’ve had just one victory.
Lewis Hamilton closed 2018 out with 10 top two finishes over the final 12 races. He started 2019 off with eight straight and nine in the first 10 races. That’s 19 top two finishes over a span of 22 races. Over the last five races run, he has just two.
Valtteri Bottas had seven top two finishes in the opening 10 races of this season too with a worst result of fourth in Montreal. That was his only start that he didn’t at least finish on the podium. Over his last five races, he has scored only two podiums. Three of the five races, he’s finished fifth or worse.
Their advantage may have stopped once summer break ended, but these signs point to the start of the end actually happening in Germany.
Since summer break ended, Ferrari has won in each of the last three races. They finished 1-2 last weekend in Singapore. Red Bull Racing with Max Verstappen has three top three finishes in his last five.
Mercedes, is struggling to even get to a podium.
Hamilton’s results have faded. He went from second in Spa, third in Italy to fourth in Singapore. Bottas, went from third to second to fifth himself.
Now, it’s the ultimate test to see where they stand. Singapore was a dominating track for them in the past as they went there winners of three straight and four of five. Instead, neither finish on the podium on Sunday.
In Russia, the site of this weekend’s race, Mercedes has won literally every race that they’ve been running at the Sochi Autodrom. Hamilton, won in 2014, 2015 and last year. Bottas, won in 2017. Nico Rosberg won the other race in 2016.
If they can’t win on Sunday, or rather look pedestrian compared to Ferrari and Red Bull, then they may have a problem on their hands. While I do think that Hamilton is too far ahead to realistically get caught and passed in terms of points, LeClerc, Vettel and Verstappen may have something for 2020.
Can Ferrari Win 4 Straight?
Its been since 2008 since Ferrari has won four straight F1 Grand Prix’s. Kimi Raikkonen won the second race of the season in Malaysia and the fourth race in Spain while Felipe Massa won in Bahrain and Turkey. Four wins in five races. They’d only go on to win four more races the rest of the season.
This year, it took 13 races before Ferrari could catch a win. Now, they haven’t lost since.
Charles LeClerc won the first race after summer break in Spa. He won a week later on Labor Day weekend in Italy. Last weekend, it was Sebastian Vettel’s turn in Singapore. In fact, LeClerc finished second to give them a 1-2 result.
Furthermore, LeClerc has won three straight pole positions too. Can they make it a fourth in terms of poles and wins this weekend in Russia?
Mercedes is obviously struggling but since the Russian Grand Prix came back to the calendar in 2014, the Silver Arrows have won all five races.
Vettel, finished third in this race last year and second in 2017. But, if you go back to 2015, he does have three podiums in four tries in Sochi.
LeClerc, finished seventh last year with Sauber but has three straight top two finishes on the season.
Kimi Raikkonen drove the second Ferrari car the last three years in Russia and finished third, third and fourth respectively.
This could be another Ferrari weekend.
Red Bull Has Struggled In Russia
This weekend could be a Mercedes vs. Ferrari fight. The reason? Red Bull Racing has struggled in Russia. Max Verstappen has never finished on the podium in four Sochi starts. When Daniel Ricciardo raced for RBR, his best finish was sixth which happened last year. In fact, he only had two top 10 finishes in five tries.
Daniil Kvyat also struggled on his home track. He finished fifth in 2015 but that’s his only top 10.
Combined, RBR has three top five finishes in Russia, none being better than fifth itself.
Verstappen, finished third last weekend in Singapore but that’s his best finish since summer break ended. His teammate Alex Albon does have four top six finishes in his last five tries on the season, but none of them have seen him bring his No. 23 Honda home further up than fifth.