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Mercedes to end drought, McLaren to challenge again? - What to expect at the Russian GP

Mercedes to end drought, McLaren to challenge again? - What to expect at the Russian GP

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Mercedes to end drought, McLaren to challenge again? - What to expect at the Russian GP

Mercedes to end drought, McLaren to challenge again? - What to expect at the Russian GP

F1 has had a weekend off to digest and recover from an incredible weekend of racing at the Italian Grand Prix before heading to Sochi.

The Russian Grand Prix promises to provide much of the same excitement that Monza produced when Daniel Ricciardo took his maiden victory as a McLaren driver.

After four races without a win, and only one in the last 10, can Mercedes finally step back on to the top step of the podium at a circuit that has become a stronghold as it has won all seven races since the track made its debut in 2014?

With Mercedes and Red Bull both looking to bounce back after THAT incident, here are five things to expect this weekend.

Hamilton Verstappen battle split up?

There is no escaping the biggest talking point of the last race and perhaps the season - the collision between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.

Rightly or wrongly, championship leader Verstappen was penalised after the race and handed a three-place grid penalty for this weekend, which would usually deprive the sport and the fans the chance to see Hamilton and Verstappen tussle into the notorious first corner in Sochi.

But with such a long run down to turn one and a slipstream critical off the line, don't be surprised to see them alongside one another come Sunday.

Bottas to continue strong form?

Valtteri Bottas seemed to make the most of the release of pressure that came with his Alfa Romeo announcement to put on a superb display at Monza, emerging fastest in qualifying, claiming the sprint win and then battling from 19th to third in the grand prix.

Sochi is well suited to the Finn, with the venue hosting his first F1 victory and multiple strong results following.

With Mercedes expected to be marginally ahead of Red Bull, could Bottas continue his strong run of form and again prove any of his doubters wrong about his abilities?

Sochi to suit McLaren but can Ferrari close power gap?

The incredible one-two finish enjoyed by McLaren at Monza allowed the team to leave Italy with a 13.5-point margin over Ferrari in the race for third in the constructors' standings.

The high-speed circuits have seemingly favoured the McLarens so far this year and Sochi's layout should again help Ricciardo and Norris over the Scuderia, who will have Charles Leclerc start at the back of the grid due to a power unit change that incorporates an improvement in the hybrid system.

What the Russian circuit does offer is a tight, Monaco-like final sector that should allow Ferrari to be more competitive than was the case at Monza. While Leclerc fights his way from the back, can Carlos Sainz finish ahead of the McLaren duo?.

Giovinazzi to put a weekend together under pressure?

The last driver to face a question mark over his F1 future is Antonio Giovinazzi, with his Alfa Romeo seat the only space left to fill on the 2022 grid.

The Italian has been blisteringly quick in qualifying over the last two events, reaching Q3 in Zandvoort and Monza.

A puncture in the Netherlands cruelly dented points aspirations as bad luck has on so many occasions already this year, but his downfall at his home race was all of his own doing.

The contact last time out with Sainz will surely work against him when Fred Vasseur and the rest of the Alfa Romeo hierarchy decide on which of the plethora of drivers they want to join Bottas next year.

This could be the last chance saloon for Giovinazzi.

AlphaTauri to turn around miserable Monza fortune

Pierre Gasly looked in fantastic form again in Italy before his sprint accident left him starting from the pit lane.

But the weekend unravelled for the whole team as a DNS for Yuki Tsunoda was followed by a swift retirement for Frenchman Gasly, allowing Alpine to streak ahead in the race for fifth in the constructors' championship.

There is no doubting Gasly's ability to bounce back, and with Alpine expected to struggle at Sochi after a self-admitted surprise double-points finish last time out, this could be a chance for AlphaTauri to claw back some of the 11-point deficit.

The weekend could also be a pivotal race for Tsunoda who needs to start repaying the faith shown by Red Bull and AlphaTauri to extend his contract beyond this year. If he can perform, a return to the points is on offer.

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