The Russian Grand Prix in Sochi this weekend represents the start of the European season and the season is shaping up to be a close battle between Mercedes and Ferrari, Hamilton and Vettel
Vettel’s win in Bahrain confirmed several of the early trends in the 2017 season. Mercedes has the best car for qualifying, helped by its extra engine modes but in race trim there is little to choose between the two leading teams. This is in part because the Ferrari team have twice this season got the better of their Mercedes counterparts on in-race strategy but the two cars also have different characteristics on tyre wear and use.
The Ferrari appears especially effective on rear limited circuits and cannot quite maximise its advantages on front limited circuits as in China where Mercedes won. The Mercedes struggles to match Ferrari tyre life in hot weather and also doesn’t do as wellif in traffic. In part this is because the aerodynamic performance of the cars makes over-taking a similar competitor difficult.
Sochi this weekend sees a return to a comparatively newly designed Tilke track which is front limited, sweeping long corners are the order of the day. Here therefore Mercedes should be able to have the measure of Ferrari. Hamilton could well be boosted by suggestions of team orders and the team really prioritising his car in a likely close battle with Ferrari. In Bahrain Bottas was instructed to move aside and make way for Hamilton at one point a move which had the Finn moaning: “It is the worst thing you can hear as a driver.”
Prices for pole position at Sochi look about right. A small mistake in Bahrain meant Bottas pipped Hamilton to pole but that is likely to be an outlier result this season and the 4/6 Hamilton pole here is fair
For the race win, best prices are Hamilton 11/10 (Betfred) and Vettel 13/8 and at odds against once more, unlike the last race, Hamilton is once again the bet on this particular type of circuit.