After Shanghai, Ferrari and Lewis Hamilton will be kept under watch during the Russian GP, the fourth F1 World Championship event. The Circus will have been in Sochi for the third time in a circuit that up to now has gave us few emotions, and Mercedes has always dominated.
With his three seals in as many events, Nico Rosberg leads the general standings, and Hamilton must prove that his many successes gained over the years do not satisfy him. The family fight could make us entertained with Lewis in a chase for the third seal at Putin’s home and Nico looking for a poker in the championship.
Ferrari has to react and try to put some pressure into the world champions, even if they have a significant margin. In China, the Pracing Horse drivers have made some mistakes that affected the result, even if a gap of 37 seconds from Rosberg is an important sign. Kimi Raikkonen managed to react very well to some problems and started the season in a way definitely more aggressive and fast, even if he suffers in the comparison with Vettel who has to recover his place in overall standings against Daniel Ricciardo.
The SF16-H will have to guard himself from an improving Red Bull. Without the puncture in the tire that happened to Ricciardo fifteen days ago, the second place would have been more difficult for Sebastian. They have an excellent frame, even if their Power-Unit lacks something. Under this aspect, I am sure that their maneuvers for 2017 have already started, and hope to be clearer next days.
Outside temperatures will affect again strategy and tire choice. Pirelli has brought Medium, Soft and SuperSoft compounds. This time there are different views within the teams, especially in terms of “yellows” and “red”. Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat rely firmly on the Softer compounds with 10 sets of SuperSoft (2 Soft and 1 Medium) each ones, against eight for Mercedes and 6 for Vettel and Raikkonen. Williams changes the road “abandoning” the Medium tires and focusing on the SuperSofts, with 9 sets per driver, and three sets of Soft, against four for Hamilton / Rosberg and six for Maranello.
With its 309 km, this will be a challenging grand prix especially for gearboxes and tractions. In addition, some engines enter their fourth race and their reliability could play an important role. From what we can read, they recovered the engine that Hamilton replaced in China.