Last weekend’s rain-soaked Japanese Grand Prix may have been won by Lewis Hamilton, his second victory in successive races, but it will be remembered for the horrific injury to Marussia driver Jules Bianchi who was rushed to hospital after hitting a recovery vehicle on lap 44.
The accident was certainly a freak one, with Bianchi sliding his Marussia in the same spot that Adrian Sutil had lost control of his Sauber on lap 43, causing the recovery vehicle, to come on track to move the vehicle. Bianchi lost control of his Marussia in almost the same spot Sutil lost control, but this time, Bianchi’s car smashed into the back of the tractor recovering the Sauber vehicle, causing a serious head injury to the 25-year-old Frenchman.
It’s been 20 years since Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna both lost their life in a single weekend of racing at Imola in 1994, but this latest incidents highlights just how perilous a career in F1 racing is.
With the next race in the calendar scheduled for Sochi in Russia this coming weekend, the F1 teams have little time to prepare for what is a controversial race in the calendar, with many feeling that F1 teams should not be racing at the circuit due to Russia’s involvement in the conflict in the Ukraine.
While the F1 fraternity will no doubt have Bianchi’s health foremost on their minds over this week, it is equally important for title chasers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg to try and focus on the forthcoming weekend as with just four races left of the season, the title is up for grabs.
In the second part of this article, we’ll touch upon our top betting tips for this event. We like to place bets with Bet365, where new customers are eligible for free Bet365 Sports bets simply for creating a new account.
Hamilton in the ascendancy
After the controversy of the Belgian Grand Prix, where Hamilton’s tyre was punctured by Rosberg on lap two, effectively ending the Englishman’s chances of taking points from the race. Hamilton has risen to the challenge well.
He has recorded three victories back to back in the Italian, Singapore and Japanese Grand Prix, closing the gap that had developed between himself and Rosberg following the Belgian Grand Prix and overhauling his German team mate to now lead him in the drivers championship by 10 points.
However with four races still remaining of the calendar and a potential 100 points up for grabs, there’s still nothing in it between the two main contenders for the title and just one mechanical problem or driver error could be the difference between winning the driver’s title, or not.
The 2014 Russian Grand Prix will be the first time since 1914 that a race has been held in Russia, with two races held in St Petersburg in 1913 and 1914. After many years of wrangling, Sochi won the rights to host the first Russian Grand Prix for 100 years, at a brand new circuit encircling the Winter Olympic village.
The Sochi Autodrom will therefore host a Russian Grand Prix for seven years from 2014 to 2020, political and legal wrangling permitting. Like many other circuits on the F1 calendar, German architecht Hermann Tilke designed the track which is 5.853 kilometers (3.637 miles) long, the third longest track in the F1 calendar after Spa (Belgium) and Silverstone (UK).
What is interesting is that 1.1 miles of the race will take place on public roads, similar to the way Monaco and Singapore use street circuits.
Can anybody challenge Mercedes dominance?
At the moment, the rule of thumb seems to be that if both Mercedes finish the race then it is likely both of them will finish inside the top three, if not in the top two spots. Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg have dominated this year’s drivers championship and it is hard to make a case for any driver to turn the tables on them in the final four races of the season.
Second place Rosberg is 63 points ahead of third place Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull, with Hamilton a further ten points ahead of Rosberg on 266 points.
So while it is likely Rosberg and Hamilton will make the running in Sochi this weekend, there are some drivers who have shown promise of late and throughout the season and could, if either Mercedes vehicle doesn’t perform on the day, spring a surprise.
Daniel Ricciardo is the man most likely. The Red Bull driver has outshone four times World Champion Sebastian Vettel this season and if anybody can break Mercedes string of wins, it is the likeable Australian.
Finnish ace Valttieri Bottas is another who has shown some real glimpses of form this season. He has had several podium finishes but is yet to win a race for Williams, but in a car not as technically proficient as either the Red Bulls or Mercedes, Bottas form this season has been hugely impressive.
Russian Grand Prix – Tips
Driver to Retire First
A new Grand Prix on the calendar means that this weekend will be the first time that most, if not all drivers have raced on the new track in Sochi. That brings with it its own challenges as drivers will take a little time to get used to the track.
As such, I think an early retirement is likely in this race and most likely it will come towards the back of the grid. Bet365 are offering some good odds on this market and I think 11/1 on Pastor Maldonado, who has endured a torrid season in his Lotus and who has crashed out of the race four times already this season, looks a solid bet.
Maldonado is a fierce driver, but also prone to errors and being brutally honest, if he didn’t bring in £45m worth of sponsorship money as a driver to his team, he would not likely be driving for any F1 team this season.
The bookies agree with me that the likely winner of this race will come from the Mercedes stable with Lewis Hamilton the 4/6 favourite and Nico Rosberg the more attractively priced 2/1 chance.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo is a 12/1 shot. However to win the race outright, I’d take the 2/1 available on Nico Rosberg as the German is overdue a win.
That said, I’d also consider an each way flutter on Valttieri Bottas, who at 22/1, represents a great each way bet to finish on the podium.
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