In-form Mercedes are the favourites in Russia

2018-09-26 06:01

IF the Singapore Grand Prix was a must win for Ferrari then the race in Russia this weekend and the 25 points on offer are even more critical from Sebastian Vettel’s perspective.

The 2018 Formula 1 season started with a lot of promise for Ferrari.

In Australia, they hit the ground running and genuinely seemed to have built a great racecar.

It’s true, they did build an extremely quick and perhaps even championship-winning car but they have never really hit their stride.

Sure, there was a handful of victories in the early part of the season but their inconsistency has always lurked not too far away.

Not inconsistency in speed per se, but in executing strategy and clinical decision-making. The irony here is that this is an area in which Ferrari has struggled for a number of years and it may, still, be something they’re not aware of.

Instead, they diverted and invested all attention and energy into producing a quick car and they have done so, but it isn’t enough to win a world championship against an opponent like Mercedes.

Though they are imperative, Mercedes’s might is not only in the car it produces or Lewis Hamilton.

Many would have you believe that Vettel throwing away 25 points at the German Grand Prix was likely the seminal moment of the season but they would be mistaken. The Singapore Grand Prix weekend was far more pivotal. Not because Ferrari could only manage third but for how Mercedes turned around their fortunes on a circuit where they had been embarrassed previously.

The brilliance of the entire Mercedes operation was put on display for all to see. It allowed for a glimpse of their unyielding tenacity and their relentless drive for success on and, importantly, off the track.

The result in Singapore will have galvanised the team and infused them with an unshakeable belief that the both 2018 titles are very much within their grasp.

The next step is the Russian Grand Prix and the Sochi Autodrom.

Built by F1 architect Herman Tilke, the 5.8km long circuit has several distinguishing features with the most prominent being turn three, a 750m constant radius left-hander.

Besides a long fairly straight and flat-out drag to turn two, the rest of the lap is littered with 90-degree corners that lend the middle sector its fast and flowing nature.

Because the track is built around the Olympic Park it utilises some of the internal roads of the park making it, effectively, a street circuit. However, there will be no fear for the durability of the Hypersoft tyre this weekend as the track surface of the Sochi Autodrom is notoriously smooth.

There is no way to hide the fact that the Williams F1 team has endured one of the most difficult seasons in its history. Far from competitive, the once championship winning team has been nailed to the back of the grid for most of the 2018 season.

But it’s not all doom and gloom as the team recently advanced to the final part of qualifying in Italy and followed it with a double points score in the race.

Tenth place in Italy secured Sergey Sirotkin’s first points in F1. As the third Russian driver to compete in the sport, following Vitaly Petrov and Daniil Kvyat, Sirotkin has been, mostly, under the radar.

But he’s been quite impressive even if the results don’t reflect it.

Besides driving the wheels, figuratively, off his Williams and eking out every last milli-second of speed, his demeanour outside of the car has been noteworthy.

Never one to criticise, he’s remained positive and continually looks to boost the morale of the team with what he says.

While talk is cheap in F1 and it won’t make you go any faster, it does boost self-esteem in a moment when Williams needs all it can get.

Formula 1 often tends towards throwing up contrary results and you predict them at your peril. But on current form, Mercedes should see the chequered flag first on Sunday unless Ferrari can get its house in order.

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