Ros­berg is the driver to watch in Rus­sia

But team-mate and world cham­pion Hamil­ton could bite into his P1 stand­ing F1 stAn,ings

CityPress - - Sport - MICHELLE FOS­TER sports@city­press.co.za (Mercebes)

The Sochi Au­to­drom may have been Lewis Hamil­ton’s play­ground in its first two sea­sons, but it is his team-mate, Nico Ros­berg, who heads to Rus­sia as the in­form driver – and with lit­tle to lose. It has been an in­cred­i­ble start to 2016 for Mercedes’ Ger­man racer, who ar­rives on the Sochi grid with a hat-trick of vic­to­ries to his name and a 36-point lead in the driv­ers’ cham­pi­onship. This means that even if his W07 suc­cumbs to an un­likely re­li­a­bil­ity grem­lin – as its pre­de­ces­sor did last year when its throt­tle stuck – he will leave the track tonight still P1 in the stand­ings.

While Hamil­ton can­not do any­thing to pre­vent that, he could take a chunk out of Ros­berg’s lead with a vic­tory, which would be his first of the sea­son – a strange stat when talk­ing about the triple world cham­pion.

Rus­sia could just be the place to end Hamil­ton’s drought this year, as the Brit has dom­i­nated at the cir­cuit, win­ning both pre­vi­ous edi­tions. He started one from pole in 2014, while the fol­low­ing year’s Satur­day P1 went to Ros­berg.

As such, Mercedes have ar­rived at the street cir­cuit that was built around the Olympic Park brim­ming with con­fi­dence, as they know that this Her­mann Tilke-de­signed track is one that suits their For­mula 1 cars. It is also one that pro­motes over­tak­ing. Last year’s grand prix saw a thrilling bat­tle in the clos­ing laps as Kimi Räikkö­nen and Valt­teri Bot­tas at­tempted to take the fi­nal podium po­si­tion off Force In­dia’s Ser­gio Pérez.

With the Force In­dia’s tyres all but shot, Räikkö­nen and Bot­tas bat­tled fu­ri­ously, only to col­lide. Bot­tas re­tired, Räikkö­nen was pe­nalised and Pérez claimed a muchap­plauded Venxe: Sochi First GrAnb Prix: 2014 NxmWer of LAps: 53

5.848km 309.745km Lewis Hamil­ton

Cir­cxit Length: RAce Dis­tAnce: 2015 Win­ner: podium po­si­tion. This sea­son, Force In­dia will have a tougher time reach­ing the podium due to the ram­pant – but re­li­a­bil­ity-plagued – Fer­rari and the resur­gent Red Bull Rac­ing. Fer­rari’s de­ci­sion to up the pace this sea­son has cost them on the re­li­a­bil­ity front and, even when the cars are run­ning as they should, they’ve paid in other ways, such as Se­bas­tian Vet­tel and Räikkö­nen’s first-lap com­ing to­gether in China. DRIV­ERS 1 Nico Rosaerg 2 r 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Lewis Hamil­ton Daniel Ric­cia­rfo Sedas­tian Vet­tel Kimi Raikko­nen Felipe Massa Daniil Kvyat Ro­main Gros­jean Max Ver­stap­pen Valt­teri Bot­tas CON­STRUC­TORS 1 Merce,es 2 r 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Fer­rari Ref Bull Rac­ing Wil­liams Haas Toro Rosso Force In­fia McLaren Re­nault Sauder GG GER GER FIN FIN BRA RUS AUS MEX GER MC MC RB FR FR WL RB HA TR WL MC FR RB WL HA TR FI MC RN SB PTS 75 r9 r6 rr 28 22 21 18 1r 7 PTS 114 61 57 29 18 17 6 1 0 0

Fer­rari need to im­prove their all-round per­for­mances in Rus­sia or risk fall­ing foul of Red Bull.

Should Red Bull take the fight to Fer­rari, all eyes will be on Vet­tel and Red Bull’s Rus­sian racer, Daniil Kvyat. They clashed ver­bally af­ter the Chi­nese Grand Prix and both will be de­ter­mined to get the up­per hand this week­end.

How­ever, cool tem­per­a­tures and a pos­si­bil­ity of rain could throw the form book out the win­dow.

– TEAMtalk Me­dia

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