Hamilton can get Russian weekend off to a speedy start
Sochi circuit may favour Mercedes
Russian GP practice
Channel 4 & Sky Sports F1, 9am Friday
Sebastian Vettel heads a tight championship battle after three races of the new Formula One season, but Lewis Hamilton will have high hopes of hitting back at this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix.
The Sochi circuit has historically favoured Mercedes. In the inaugural race there in 2014 the first five cars home were powered by Mercedes engines, and a driver from the factory team has led every lap raced there.
This year’s Ferrari engine is clearly a big step up on recent machinery, but Hamilton looks the man to back to go fastest in first practice.
The new Mercedes has been at its best over a single lap, and Hamilton headed a 1-2 for the team in the first practice session of the season in Australia.
The equivalent session in China was virtually fogged off, while in Bahrain last time there was little of value to be learned as the session took place in daylight while the race was a night event.
Mercedes had a much more productive time than Ferrari at the test session which took place in the days after the Bahrain Grand Prix, won by Vettel.
Red Bull looked stronger in Bahrain but the Sochi circuit puts the emphasis on power so it is unlikely to suit them.
The Milton Keynes team have high hopes from a package of upgrades scheduled to appear in next month’s Spanish Grand Prix.
Drivers standings after three of 20 races: 1 S Vettel 68, 2 L Hamilton 61, 3 V Bottas 38, 4 K Raikkonen 34, 5 M Verstappen 25.
L Hamilton fastest in P1
2pts 11-8 Coral, Ladbrokes
Venue Sochi Autodrom, Krasnodar
Number of laps 53
Lap length 5.853km
Lap record 1.39.094, N Rosberg (Mercedes), 2016
Schedule – practice one 9am Friday; practice two 1pm
Friday; practice three 10am Saturday; qualifying 1pm Saturday; race 1pm Sunday.
TV All live on Channel 4 & Sky Sports F1
Circuit characteristics A wide and fairly fast temporary circuit around the 2014 winter Olympic park. The surface is very easy on tyres
DRS zone Before turn two and before turn 13
Tyre allocation Soft (yellow), supersoft (red) & ultrasoft (purple)
Course winner taking part L Hamilton (2)
Last year Nico Rosberg scored a serene win after mechanical problems in qualifying left Lewis Hamilton starting tenth. A messy start saw Sebastian Vettel eliminated after being hit by Daniil Kvyat in what would turn out to be the Russian’s last race fro Red Bull
2016 pole N Rosberg, 1.35.417
2016 fastest lap N Rosberg, 1.39.094 on lap 52
2016 classified finishers 18/22
Reason for retirement Mechanical (1), Accident (3)
Weather Mainly sunny and warm