Our resident guest F1 writer Justin Johns brings you a Russian F1 Grand Prix Preview.

The driver’s championship battle is over, the #FightForFive is over and the belief in Sebastian by many, including myself, is over. It’s not enough for Sebastian to win the next six races to earn him the right to be champion as his performances, thus far, compared to Lewis has been sub-par. Lewis Hamilton, in my eyes, has done enough to be champion, a deserved one at that.

Hamilton seems to start off a season slightly below the radar in terms of his performances, and builds up, constantly improving as a season progresses. Lewis is always a danger, no matter where he starts on the grid, or if he loses places on the opening lap. He is always in it for the win, always competitive and quite frankly I think he is the best on the grid now. He doesn’t make mistakes, rarely has an off day and right now is in the form of his career.

The only other driver who doesn’t make mistakes is probably Fernando Alonso and with his retirement we, the F1 community, have been robbed of a chance to see these two battle it out for the championship. Instead, we have Seb, who makes mistakes and cannot capitalise on Ferrari and Kimi backing him up with the best car. To Seb’s credit, he is really quick and he has climbed back from big deficits before. He can, technically, still win as all it takes is for Lewis to encounter two DNFs to bring Seb back into the fight. I hope it doesn’t turn out that way, but let’s see if Seb can dig deep and win the next six races.

As a fan, I was looking forward to an epic showdown in the final race, with everything on the line to see who will win the #FightForFive. I don’t think that’s really on the cards anymore but there is a chance, provided Seb wins the next five races. So as a fan of the sport and entertainment in general, I am forced to back Seb for the next few races.

Kimi to win?

It would be awesome if Kimi wins the remaining races instead, I mean, I wouldn’t care about a final showdown if that happens. But alas, that’s a dream too unrealistic to occur, but it does place emphasis on whether Kimi will listen to team orders to support Seb in the remaining races. What’s the worst Ferrari can do if Kimi doesn’t listen? Fire him? So what, he is off to another team anyway and has supported Vettel for a solid two seasons now.

Kimi may not have been as quick as Sebastian this season, but he certainly made fewer mistakes. Ferrari backed the wrong driver in my opinion. I hope Kimi does what he wants because you know, Ferrari should “leave him alone because he knows what is doing”. Kimi will be partnered with Antonio Giovinazzi next season, which is a welcome return for an Italian on an F1 grid.

I like Giovinazzi, people forget his awesome performance in Australia last year but remember his crashes in China. Okay, he crashed during free practice in the Haas at Hungary as well last year, but he is quick and should be more comfortable in his performances as he has secured a full season drive. He tends to overdrive the car to make an impact, excuse the pun, but he has a distinct flair in his driving. Max Verstappen has a similar flair, too, on corner entry, they both tend to suddenly flick the car into the apex. It looks good and can be quick if you have the right feel.

Bye Marcus

With the arrival of Giovinazzi, we bid farewell to Marcus Ericsson. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I will miss him, he does seem like a nice guy but Grosjean will miss him the most. As critical as I am of Marcus, he has done okay this season. I would say he deserves another shot if this was his first season but this is the third team-mate to have beaten him. In order, it was Felipe Nasr, Pascal Wehrlein and now Charles Leclerc. His junior formula results were not impressive either, so I think it’s time he changes series. He may do well in Indycar.

Click here to watch a trailer for an upcoming Indycar movie. 

New talent

With the emergence of, basically, a new grid with a lot of youngsters, it does make me feel a bit old. We still have Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton left. Once they are gone, we should have a brand new grid if you count back to 2009. If they do go, the stalwarts will be Hulkenberg, Grosjean, Bottas, Ricciardo and Perez, it’s an interesting scenario, but the thought of Verstappen, Gasly, Leclerc, Sainz, Magnussen, Ocon, Wehrlein, Giovinazzi, Russel and Norris battling it out is awesome.

I can’t wait for the new generation to take charge of things. With the change starting next season, we all have Daniel Ricciardo to thank for that. His move to Renault triggered the biggest driver shift in the history of the sport, I’m sure. Something tells me, the faith Ricciardo and Hulkenberg has put in Renault, leaves them with their only shot at a world title come 2021 and beyond. I hope as I’m sure we all do Renault become competitive again. They have a better chance than McLaren and Williams at the moment.

No seats

In theory, the only seats still available are the two at Williams and the two at Toro Rosso. I’m certain Perez and Stroll will be at Force India and Haas will retain their current line-up for next season. Loads of rumors have positioned Pascal Wehrlein and Daniil Kyvat at Toro Rosso, which for me, is great, I like both drivers. I am a big supporter of Pascal Wehrlein and believe he is the real deal, a future world champion I’m sure. Kyvat just needs to focus on what he does best and drive. I hope he uses a sports therapist to keep his mind focused on what’s important, like what Grosjean did from 2012 onwards.

That leaves us with Williams. I think Ocon will occupy one of the seats. The other seat could stay with Sirotkin or, I’m hoping goes to George Russell. Why I’m hoping for that is easy, the kid is phenomenal and will walk away with the F2 championship for sure. He deserves that seat over Sirotkin, who I might add is currently being beaten by Stroll. Imagine being beaten by Stroll, I would retire immediately.

From Russia with Speed

Let’s talk about the upcoming Russian Grand Prix. If you haven’t noticed, I was trying to avoid it for a while. This track is a disaster in my opinion. It’s dull, boring and repetitive. On TV, it’s hard to figure out where on the circuit the cars are and when I drive it on my PlayStation, I get the feeling of, ‘where am I?’

Click here to take a virtual lap of Sochi with Valtteri Bottas.

Look, I love the idea of having a race in Russia as we should have a race on every continent to make it a World Championship but this track sucks, it really does and I’m sorry to have resorted with juvenile descriptions of it. What can change the game, however, is rain, a proper a wet race, from start to finish.

Favourites

As it stands, Mercedes is undefeated in Russia with a 100% win rate going back to 1913. Let’s see if that record stands. A weird statistic about this race is that 50 per cent of all retirements occurred on lap one, so drivers need to stay clear of any craziness which may result on the opening lap. A lap, which is fairly long I might add, it’s the fourth longest on the calendar coming in at 5,7 km.

Click here to read about our own experience on the Circuit of the Americas in a Mercedes-AMG.

Turn one with the weird run-off around the outside may be a bit messy this weekend. Home favorite Sirotkin has no chance of achieving anything this, so let’s forget about him and focus on Valtteri Bottas who is quick here. He won last year by beating Sebastian Vettel fair and square in the race.

If Lewis beats Sebastian this weekend, the championship is truly over. I know I started off this article claiming it’s already over, but I was being melodramatic. I’m still bitter about Monza if I’m honest and I know there’s still a chance for Seb to at least work hard enough to give us an epic final showdown come Abu Dhabi. I know it’s hard, but we have to back Vettel if all we want is an epic final with loads of tension and excitement. So, Forza Sebastian! That sounded uncomfortable, I know.

Here’s to great race.

Peace.