The first edition of the Russian Grand Prix was the dullest races of the 2014 Formula One season and there is a chance that this year’s second running of the race probably won’t be any more interesting to watch on television.
Lewis Hamilton dominated almost every aspect of the 2014 Russian Grand Prix – he was the fastest driver in each of the three qualifying sessions, he won the race by more than 13 seconds from his Mercedes teammate, Nico Rosberg, but he did not record the fastest lap of the contest, with Valtteri Bottas using his fresh tyres to deny the British driver on his final circuit. Apart from Mercedes fans, very few people stayed awake to watch Hamilton take the chequered flag first at the Sochi Autodrom, a boring track that Russian officials constructed on the site of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games.
Pirelli made an error in selecting the tyres for last year’s Russian Grand Prix, one that enabled Rosberg to cover 52 of the 53 laps on one set of rubber. Pirelli has decided to bring its two softest tyres to the 2015 Russian Grand Prix, which should result in more pit stops. More interestingly, though, it may cause for a few headaches for Mercedes, which had a nightmare when Pirelli brought the same tyres to the Singapore Grand Prix three weeks ago – the Silver Arrows could not find their usual race pace, Hamilton retired and Rosberg finished fourth after never threatening to win.
One thinks that the cooler Russian climate and the kinder Sochi track are likely to see Mercedes avert another bad weekend but one does not want to risk backing Hamilton at short odds in the circumstances. One is more interested in backing another Mercedes-powered team, Force India, to get in on the Russian Grand Prix points action on a circuit that should favour those cars with Silver Arrows-built engines.
Bet365 is offering odds of -125 about Nico Hulkenberg making the Russian Grand Prix top 10 and the Stoke-based bookmaker is listing the same price about his Force India colleague, Sergio Perez. Hulkenberg trails Perez by one point in the Formula One championship but the German has defeated the Mexican in four of the seven races that both drivers have completed so one is leaning towards the Hulk as the better bet of the two, if one had to place only one wager.
Mercedes, Ferrari and Williams are Formula One’s strongest teams this season but one would argue that there is not a great deal between Red Bull and Force India in the battle for fourth even though there is a 62-point gap on the ladder. That is because Force India took until the halfway mark of the year to get its act together and its results since the Canadian Grand Prix have been good. Hulkenberg has picked up points in five of his last eight Formula One races and either he did not start or finish the other three. Perez has earned five top-10 positions over the same time period.
One was expecting to see Hulkenberg, who did not put a foot wrong when steering his Force India vehicle to sixth place in the Japanese Grand Prix two weeks ago, at odds of around -167 to pocket at least one Russian Grand Prix point so the offer of Bet365 is well worth taking up. Force India appears to have the measure of another Mercedes-powered team, Lotus, and Max Verstappen cannot keep lifting his Toro Rosso to places that it has no right to be in based on its package.
Nico Hulkenberg to make the Top 10
11th October 12:00 GMT
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