With six rounds remaining, Sebastian Vettel arrives in Sochi for this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix with a 40-point deficit to Lewis Hamilton at the top of the drivers’ standings. That effectively makes the race a must-win for the Ferrari driver, who has won just one race from the last five compared to Hamilton’s four from the last five.
The Sochi circuit runs through the old Olympic Park used for the 2014 Winter Games and is characterised by 90-degree corners and a long pit straight. Mercedes has won every Russian Grand Prix since it was added to the calendar in 2014, but Hamilton has not won here since 2015. Valtteri Bottas won the race last year, which was held in April rather than September.
What time does it start and how can I watch?
This weekend’s Russian Grand Prix is set to get underway at 14:10 PM local time, 12:10 PM BST and 7:10 AM Eastern.
For U.S. viewers, all of this weekend’s sessions are live on ESPN (all times Eastern):
Friday, September 28
Practice 1 – Friday, Sept. 28, 3:55 AM – ESPNU
Practice 2 – Friday, Sept. 28, 7:55 AM – ESPNU
Saturday, September 29
Practice 3 – Saturday, Sept. 29, 4:55 AM – ESPN2
Qualifying – Saturday, Sept. 29, 7:55 AM – ESPN2
Sunday, September 30
On The Grid – Sunday, Sept. 30, 6:30 AM – ESPN2
Race – Sunday, Sept. 30, 7:05 AM – ESPN2
Encore – Sunday, Sept. 30, 8:30 PM – ESPNEWS
Encore – Monday, Oct. 1, 0.00 AM – ESPN2
UK viewers can watch every session live on Sky Sports F1. Check local listings for all other territories.
What will a Hamilton win mean?
If Hamilton’s fine form at the last two races spills over into this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix, he has the potential to take the title race out of Vettel’s hands on Sunday. As things stand, if Vettel wins all six remaining races he would win the championship by two points, but if he finishes second to Hamilton this weekend the Mercedes driver could finish second at all the remaining rounds and still be crowned champion. Therefore, the pressure is very much on Vettel and Ferrari.
What else to look out for?
Daniil Kvyat is expected to be confirmed as a Toro Rosso driver for 2019, heralding an unlikely comeback for the 24-year-old Russian who was dropped by the team last year. The move comes after one of the most active driver markets of recent years, which threatens to leave Esteban Ocon out of a drive in 2019.
After its drivers collided in Singapore, Force India is likely to lay down some stricter ground rules between Sergio Perez and Ocon this weekend. The two drivers have previous when it comes to on-track collisions and the stakes are higher than ever with Ocon expected to lose out on a driver at the team next year. Perez also faces some tough questions after another collision with Sergey Sirotkin later in the Singapore race that resulted in a drive-through penalty.