Formula 1

2016 Russian Grand Prix Race Preview

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Nico Rosberg heads into the Russian Grand Prix on the victory roll of his life, having claimed the past six Formula 1 Grand Prix victories, but will be looking for his first Sochi win this weekend.

In fact, the Sochi Autodrom has been Lewis Hamilton’s playground so far, with the reigning World Champion being unbeaten in the previous two visits, but will 2016 continue that run to end Rosberg’s, or can Rosberg make it seven on the bounce on Sunday afternoon?

Or will an interloper inject themselves in the lead battle?

Credit: Mercedes AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team

Credit: Mercedes AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team

Sebastian Vettel could be the most likely to be get in amongst the Mercedes drivers, with the Scuderia Ferrari team showing much improved pace in 2016, although their reliability and luck has been out so far this year.

Both Vettel and team-mate Kimi Raikkonen have each suffered a retirement this season, while the two vied for the same part of racetrack at the start of the Chinese Grand Prix and damaged their cars last time out, although both were able to finish in the points.

Red Bull Racing have made a stronger start to the season than many expect, with Daniel Ricciardo taking a trio of fourth places in the opening three races, while Daniil Kvyat secured his second career podium last time out in China.

The duo could be outsiders for a podium once more in Russia, especially with it being Kvyat’s home Grand Prix, although the Australian will be looking to secure his own first podium of the season.

Williams have had a relatively quiet start to the season, with Felipe Massa currently outscoring Valtteri Bottas by 22 points to 7, although neither driver have shown particularly good pace in any of the three races to suggest they will be a podium contender in Sochi.

Credit: Steven Tee/LAT Photographic

Credit: Steven Tee/LAT Photographic

The Haas bubble seemed to burst in China, after two strong results for Romain Grosjean in the opening two Grand Prix brought the new American team points, neither driver could get near the points.

Despite not scoring, they can be satisfied to bring both cars home for the first time, with Esteban Gutierrez completing his first race distance since his return to the sport after his year out as Ferrari test driver in 2015. The team will be looking for more signs of good reliability in Russia, and maybe a return to the points.

Toro Rosso have scored points in all three races so far with Max Verstappen, while team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr has scored twice, but both drivers should have scored more points in each race after mistakes and inconsistencies. The team should be looking for a strong outing in Sochi, and mistake-free they should be in with a shout of a good haul of points.

A team struggling both on and off the track at present is Force India, with team owner Dr Vijay Mallya in trouble with the courts in his homeland, while Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg have been out of contention for points in each of the last two races.

Force India ended 2015 as one of the strongest outfits on the grid, but their development seems to have stalled, while the off-track goings on could hamper them more and potentially threaten their very existence. What they would do with a good result in Russia, especially in the land of Vodka for their Smirnoff sponsors.

McLaren-Honda have only scored one point so far in 2016 with Stoffel Vandoorne in Bahrain, and while both Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button are obviously trying their best, they seem to be struggling to enter themselves into the battle for points, and with the pace of the car as it is, they could struggle once more at Sochi.

Credit: DPPI

Credit: DPPI

A team really struggling so far in 2016 is Renault. They have struggled for pace in both qualifying and race trim, and are one of three teams yet to score points along with Sauber and Manor.

Such was the pace in China, Jolyon Palmer finished last of everyone, while Kevin Magnussen was only seventeenth, and unless they unlock some speed in Russia, more strife could be heading the way of the Enstone team.

Off-track troubles are also affecting the Sauber team, with monies being owed to employees as they seek additional funding to continue the development of their 2016 car.

Marcus Ericsson has outpaced Felipe Nasr in both races they have both completed, although neither have been anywhere near the points, and neither are likely to be in Sochi either.

Whereas Sauber are apparently in decline, there is scope for optimism with the Manor Racing camp, especially after Pascal Wehrlein has shown competitiveness during the past two Grand Prix where he has outraced drivers from other teams.

Although team-mate Rio Haryanto has not shown the same kind of pace, he has not been overawed by his first three races, and after finishing genuinely ahead of Palmer in China, there appears to finally be an upward swing in performance for the smallest team on the grid after years of being perennial underdogs.

So who will come out on top of the battle of Sochi? Let the action commence!

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