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PREVIEW: Sochi the next stop as Verstappen and Hamilton battle for F1 Championship

Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton will renew their rivalry when the F1 field heads to Sochi this weekend.

F1 - Circuit of teh Americas preivew
Image Copyright - Steve Haag Sports

Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton will renew their rivalry when the F1 field descends on Sochi this weekend.

Two women looking excitedly at cellphone

The F1 field heads for the Russian coastal city of Sochi for what will be an extremely vital race as there’s still some doubt surrounding whether the Grand Prix in the Americas will go ahead.

Russian Grand Prix
Sunday 26 September
Sochi Autodromo

To Win Race (Outright)

Lewis Hamilton 13/20
Valtteri Bottas 7/2
Max Verstappen 5/1
Lando Norris 25/1
Daniel Ricciardo 25/2
George Russel 50/1

Previous Race

Well, Monza was certainly profitable for McLaren as Daniel Ricciardo (first) and Lando Norris (second) claimed a massive one-two finish after Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen retired from the race courtesy of a crash that was deemed to have been the fault of the Dutchman. While Hamilton had a disappointing GP, his teammate, Valtteri Bottas had a blinder as he drove his Mercedes from the back of the grid into the final podium position.

Sergio Perez salvaged some pride for Red Bull as well with the Mexican bringing his car home in fifth place behind Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and in front of Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari.

The rest of the top ten featured most of the usual suspects with Lance Stroll claiming seventh, Fernando Alonso taking eighth, George Russel stealing ninth and Esteban Ocon rounding out the points scoring positions.

Track

Sochi Autodrom

Picturesque, yet menacing. The Sochi Autodrom is one of those tracks that split opinions among drivers and fans. Covering some 5.853 kilometres, the circuit is certainly on the long side of the spectrum. It also contains some blindingly quick segments and some incredibly slow corners – like Russia itself, this track is full of contrasts.

There is likely to be plenty of rain about this weekend. At the time of writing, parts of the paddock had flooded which is cause for concern. Especially after the facial Dutch GP a few weeks ago. 

Mercedes managed to claim first and third last year with Valtteri Bottas winning the race and Lewis Hamilton occupying the final podium berth. Sandwiched between the Silver Arrows duo was current Drivers’ Championship leader, Max Verstappen.

Value Bet

Podium Yes – Daniel Ricciardo @9/2

With the two Red Bulls likely to face grid penalties, things could well be rather open this weekend.

Former Red Bull man Daniel Ricciardo could be just the driver to take advantage of Max’s and Sergio’s woes. The Australian had an excellent time out in Monza claiming pole.

While this is far from his favourite track – his best finish was fifth place which he claimed last year – he is still certainly worth a podium punt at 9/2.

To Win Race Outright

Valterri Bottas @7/2

I really fancy this one. Bottas got the big ups from Mercedes boss Toto Wolff this past week, “as for Valtteri, he’s driving better than ever, like we saw in Monza – and he will be flat out every weekend. There’s a calm determination about the team right now and the business end of a season, fighting for championships, is exactly what we enjoy the most.”

Bottas was fantastic in Monza and he has an incredible record in Sochi having claimed two wins and three podiums. While there is a worry the team may tell him to hold back and let Lewis Hamilton take pole, should the two be in first and second near the end of the race, they’ll have a hard time leashing the Fin knows he’s on the way out of Mercedes.

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