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Russian GP: Do Ferrari now have the strongest car?

Sebastian Vettel’s victory in Singapore caused championship leader, Lewis Hamilton, to admit that Ferrari will now be tough to beat following three consecutive victories for the Scuderia.

Despite victorious in seven of the first ten races, Hamilton has now won just one of the past five with Ferrari now showing a contrast of their form before the summer break.

Usually, it is Hamilton that takes his form to a whole new level after the summer.

As expected, Ferrari won in Belgium and Italy, tracks which suit their car perfectly due to the reliance on straight line speed to perform at those circuits.

However, last time out in Singapore, Mercedes and Red Bull were expected to compete for victory with Ferrari in the background due to the tight and curvy nature of the track, relying highly on downforce around the circuit.

But, Ferrari found unexpected pace in Singapore which resulted in both pole and victory for the team, causing Hamilton to think that they are now exceptional on all tracks and not just high-speed circuits, such as Monza.

“Clearly their car works really well everywhere now, so it’s going to be very hard to beat them.

“We have won before with not the best car. But it’s just really how we deliver over the weekend.

“At the moment they’re delivering better on both ends” the five-time world champion said.

Does this now mean that Ferrari are favourites for victory in Russia?

Despite the current form of the Scuderia, Mercedes should still arrive this weekend expecting to take victory, simply because of their history around the Sochi Autodrom.

Can Lewis Hamilton make it four victories in Sochi this weekend? Photograph from the Sochi Autodrom official website.

The track – built around the Sochi Olympic Park – made its debut on the F1 calendar in 2014, in which the Silver Arrows have then won in every race since its introduction – Hamilton winning three.

But, in Singapore Mercedes arrived as the favourites but didn’t even manage to finish on the podium so perhaps once again, Ferrari will produce another ‘shock’ and beat the Silver Arrows on one of their favourable tracks.

It took Ferrari a long time to start winning in 2019 and a strong end to the season will be key, if they hope to compete with Mercedes for the 2020 title.

It may only be a matter of time before Hamilton wins his sixth world title, but it will be pivotal for Mercedes to return to winning ways this weekend at the calendar’s fourth longest circuit, to stop Ferrari adding to their momentum.

Singapore was not good enough

Heading into Singapore, Red Bull had highlighted the race as one to win but ultimately headed home with P3 and P6.

After finishing third, Max Verstappen subsequently labelled this as a ‘wake-up call’ for the team, who will need to start performing consistently to keep hold of the Dutchman with him more than capable to fight for the world championship.

“Not good enough. We came here to win and clearly didn’t. I would say it’s a little wake up call.

“From Austria onwards, it’s maybe our worst race in terms of performance, where we expected to be really good.

“I think here, clearly, in too many corners the car was not working like it wanted it to” Verstappen said.

But, to overcome such disappointment from Singapore, Red Bull head to a track where Verstappen is yet to finish above fifth and one where the team do not usually excel – they are yet to finish on the podium in Russia.

Photograph from the Sochi Autodrom official website.

Red Bull will probably be looking at third best once again this weekend but will need to avoid too many of those in the future, for the sake of Verstappen.

The Dutchman is regarded by many as the best driver on the grid and will need a championship contending car sooner rather than later, as patience and loyalty may run out if Red Bull cannot compete for victories consistently.

However, that is way ahead in the future, but the prospect of the Sochi Autodrome doesn’t look too good for Red Bull.

 

By Edward Hardy

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