F1: Russian Grand Prix 2016 Preview

Written by Matthew Molver for @Hollywoodbets.

Russian Grand Prix | Sunday 1 May | Sochi Autodrom | 13:30 

Grab your fluffy hats, coats, and vodka as we're heading over to Sochi for the next leg of the 2016 Formula One season. Shanghai threw many of us for a loop, with big dog Lewis Hamilton finishing a dismal seventh even though he had a good start. Nico Rosberg took his customary first place, which has become the status quo for the opening stages of the 2016 circuit. There are still 18 races to go but if he keeps this pace up not even Hamilton will be able to catch him.

The boys from Red bull managed to steal into third and fourth place, pushing a disappointed Kimi Raikkonen into fifth, last time out. The Shanghai illustrates that nothing is definite in this sport, and anything can still happen.

Previous Race
Shanghai’s Grand Prix saw the return of both proper qualifying and resurgent performances from the like of Red Bull. We saw actual dicing in the opening stints of the race - something which was severely lacking out in Australia and Bahrain.

Hamilton had an absolute nightmare of a weekend with a grid penalty severely hampering his chances of reigning in his teammate. The Brit must now feel his podium throne may well be moving to the Rosberg residence.

Shanghai was certainly a show, and the malfunctions up and down the board helped to build the excitement. Malfunctions such as Lewis Hamilton suffering perpetual troubles, Nico Hülkenberg's runaway front wheel, which red-flagged Q2, as well as Sebastian Vettel's and Kimi Räikkönen's flubbed hot laps in Q3 that let Daniel Ricciardo slip by into second on the grid.

Come race day things went all Grand Theft Auto at turn 1 on the opening lap, sending some of the best cars to the pits. Then came Ricciardo's puncture and then we had the safety car out – all before the conclusion of lap 5.

Nico Rosberg got 38 seconds of airtime on the way to victory – such was his dominance. Ironically, 38 seconds happened to be his margin of victory, too.

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel managed to come in second, even though he was not immune to the carnage that was taking place - a colliding with teammate Kimi Raikkonen after Red Bull driver Daniil Kyvat “forced” his way past Vettel, leaving the German with no other option than to plough into his teammate.

 The boys from Red Bull, Daniil Kyvat and Daniel Riccardio, came in third and fourth respectively, showing Ferrari that they better watch their mirrors carefully in the coming weeks.

Kimi Raikkonen slipped into fifth place behind Ricciardo, doing a good job overall, despite the chaos of the race and being crashed into by his own teammate. Felipe Massa rolled into sixth with Hamilton not far behind in eighth.

The Sochi circuit, located in the Black Sea resort of the same name, is one of the most fascinating street tracks on show this year.

The track is 5.848km long and its width varies from 13 metres at its narrowest point to 15 metres at the start-finish line. The circuit, which runs in a clockwise direction, consists of 12 right- and six left-hand corners and combines both high-speed and technical sections.

On their first visit to the track, Formula One cars reached 332 km/h on the 650-metre straight between the first and second turns, with Lewis Hamilton averaging 213 km/h as he claimed pole for Mercedes.

The track maybe a modern creation but because of the abundance of turns, it doesn’t make for a very entertaining track for the drivers. However, having a lot more turns means that power is not the main factor in claiming victory here; if the driver is good and knows their car they can out manoeuvre even the lightening quick Mercedes.

The tracks two DRS zones will be on opposite sides of the 5.8-kilometre track. The first DRS zone is on the run to the first braking zone and the other will be on the next-longest flat-out stretch which curves right and left as it leads into turn 13.

The temperature in Sochi this weekend is hovering in the teens with 17 degrees celsius being the highest. However, there is little rain expected for the weekend but race day is set to sunny and mild.

To Win Outright
Lewis Hamilton 5/4 | Nico Rosberg 5/4 | Sebastian Vettel 11/2 | Kimi Raikkonen 16/1 | Daniel Riccardio 25/1 | Daniil Kyvat 66/1 | Felippe Massa 100/1 | Valtteri Bottas 100/1

Value Bets
Fastest Qualifier: Lewis Hamilton 9/10
I am a Hamilton believer even though the start of the season has not been kind to the reigning world champion. He still has the driving skills and a monster of a car to back him up. He hasn’t done badly in Sochi previously and he will be raring to get back on top. hopefully, he will turn up this weekend and recapture that 2015 qualifying form that saw him dominate the field.

To Win Outright: Nico Rosberg 5/4
Nico Rosberg has so far won every race this season which a hugely positive omen for Rosberg as whenever a driver has secured the first three victories in a season, that driver has gone on to win the Drivers' Championship. As long as his luck holds and nothing calamitous happens, I think we will see Nico Rosberg cruising into first place once again.

Podium Finish: Daniel Ricciardo 7/2
The Red Bull team has been proving themselves in both the Drivers' and Constructors' Championships this season, slowly moving up the ranks race by race. I had my hopes pinned on his the smiling Aussie to get a podium finish on my last preview, and I wasn’t too far off the mark. I'm going to back him to for the podium position once again this week as 7/2 is just way to tempting to ignore.

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