Venue: Sochi Autodrom
Lewis Hamilton is fancied to benefit from his latest dust-up with title rival Max Verstappen in our Russian Grand Prix predictions.
The Dutchman must serve a three-place grid penalty after being blamed for the crash which saw both drivers fail to finish at Monza.
The Briton claimed four of the previous seven victories at this venue and was a touch unlucky not to add to his tally 12 months ago.
After being over half a second faster than Verstappen in qualifying, Hamilton was handed two five-second penalties for doing practice starts outside the designated areas on race day.
Assuming lessons have been learned from that lapse and there are no after-effects from the dramatic Italian Grand Prix collision, this is a golden opportunity to get back on top of the table.
Thankfully, the halo which sits above Hamilton’s helmet absorbed the crushing impact of Verstappen’s out-of-control Red Bull.
The seven-time world champion starts this event five points behind in the title race but will be going all out to bridge that gap.
How the Italian Grand Prix finished
1 Ricciardo (McLaren), 2 Norris (McLaren), 3 Bottas (Mercedes), 4 Leclerc (Ferrari), 5 Perez (Red Bull), 6 Sainz (Ferrari), 7 Stroll (Aston Martin), 8 Alonso (Alpine Renault), 9 Russell (Williams), 10 Ocon (Alpine Renault), 11 Latifi (Williams), 12 Vettel (Aston Martin), 13 Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo), 14 Kubica (Alfa Romeo), 15 Schumacher (Haas), DNF Mazepin (Haas), Verstappen (Red Bull), Hamilton (Mercedes), Gasly (Alphatauri), Tsunoda (Alphatauri)
Red Bull chief Christian Horner admitted he was braced for a tough test in Russia even before Verstappen’s penalty.
“It has been a Mercedes stronghold,” said Horner. “For me, Monza and Sochi, I’ve them marked down mentally as Mercedes circuits, so it will be a challenge.”
With that in mind, 5/4 for both Mercedes drivers to finish on the podium offers plenty of appeal.
That bet would have paid out for the past three years, with Valtteri Bottas winning and Hamilton eventually third in 2020.
McLaren cleaned up in Italy, with Daniel Ricciardo leading home Lando Norris for a memorable one-two.
Norris was content to play second fiddle to his teammate after the big duo had crashed out.
“It’s incredible,” said the Briton. “The main thing it means for me is our result as a team.
“Whether I’m second, third or first, I think the best thing is just having that one-two for the team, securing the maximum points and it’s just such a cool feeling to be part of this.”
However, Norris could be heard over the team radio accusing Ricciardo of being “too slow” out in front at one point and the feeling is that he has more scope for improvement this weekend.
“I would have loved to go for the win,” admitted Norris. “But the feeling I get for the team is priority over my own feeling in a way.
“I’m here for many more years I hope, especially with McLaren and the whole team, so I feel like I still have an opportunity in the future to try and go for it.”
Looking at the Russian Grand Prix odds, we like 6/4 for Norris in the market on who will fare best without Mercedes and Red Bull.
Past Russian Grand Prix winners
2020 Bottas (Mercedes), Verstappen (Red Bull), Hamilton (Mercedes)
2019 Hamilton (Mercedes), Bottas (Mercedes), Leclerc (Ferrari)
2018 Hamilton (Mercedes), Bottas (Mercedes), Vettel (Ferrari)
2017 Bottas (Mercedes), Vettel (Ferrari), Raikkonen (Ferrari)
2016 Rosberg (Mercedes), Hamilton (Mercedes), Raikkonen (Ferrari)
2015 Hamilton (Mercedes), Vettel (Ferrari), Perez (Force India)
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