After Ferrari surprisingly won in Singapore, the speculation is do they have the fastest car now and will they maintain their advantage in Sochi? Personally I am unsure which one of Mercedes or Ferrari will be faster? You can make a case for both. The weather could also play a factor, chances are that some part of the weekend will be affected by rain.
As analysed after qualifying, it seems Ferrari have the quicker car in smoother medium-low speed corners which don’t require you to manhandle the car around as much. This should benefit them in the first sector in particular. The Mercedes on the other hand seems to be at home in the ‘edgy’ corners where the car moves around a lot. This should benefit them in the second sector. The third sector is a mix between both types of corners. Which one will result in a bigger gap is unknown, but of course Ferrari’s biggest advantage is the many straights and the high speed sections which could counter any losses to Mercedes in the middle sector. It could be quite close.
The other big question is where do Red Bull factor into this? They have already hit a knockback as both cars will have a 5 place grid drop. They were a lot slower than expected in Singapore, so where they are likely to be here is unknown. But my guess is even if they are far off, they won’t be that far off. The threat of rain during the weekend could also help their chances as well. Their sister team Toro Rosso will also be taking these penalties, with home boy Daniil Kvyat dropping to the back of the grid altogether.
The midfield battle is likely to be headed by McLaren once again with the track playing to the strengths of the MCL34. A team I am also expecting to see competitive is Renault, the mix of long straights and fast/medium speed corners could see them up there. Racing Point have been strong here in the past so may also be strong. This weekend will likely be a struggle for Toro Rosso though with their grid penalties, though a tight midfield could enable them to score points if their car is quick enough.
Here is my verdict on what I am expecting the pecking order to be.
There is a strong chance the championship could be settled in Sochi, as Nyck De Vries leads the championship by 59 points. He only needs to outscore Nicholas Latifi by 6 points in order to secure the championship in Race 1 providing Latifi doesn’t get pole, if he gets pole he’d need to outscore by 10 points. On the other hand if De Vries gets pole he’d only need to outscore Latifi by 2 points. To take the championship to Abu Dhabi, Latifi needs to outscore De Vries by 11 points. Both have been quick round here in the past, but the chances are high that Nyck will secure the championship this weekend.
The inaugrial season of the new era of Formula 3 draws to a close this weekend, with Robert Shwartzman and Jehan Daruvala as the leading contenders after Juri Vips and Marcus Armstrong fell out of contention at Monza. A 33 point lead for Shwartzman sees the Russian as not only the favourite but also likely to secure it in Race 1. To take the title fight to Race 2, Daruvala must outscore Shwartzman by 16 points by Race 2 to have a chance of the title, and if points are equal, that chance will rely on him winning so the countback can be in his favour. Of course considering F3’s unpredictability this year and with rain expected for Race 1 a lot can happen, but chances are Shwartzman will take the crown.
Something interesting to note, thunderstorms are expected on Saturday morning so if the race gets cancelled due to weather, even if it works out like in the GP3 race in Monza a couple of years ago, where they had a single race on Sunday morning with the Race 1 points system, and even if Daruvala takes the 4 points for pole, it would be impossible for him to close the gap in a single race. So if bad weather causes Race 1 to be cancelled, it would secure the championship for Shwartzman
With teams expected to be quite close and titles on the line in the junior series, it sure is expected to be an intriguing weekend in Sochi.