Author: Dan Mason
Published: 15:04 07/10/2014
This weekend sees the Formula 1 circus head to Sochi for the inaugural Russian Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton entering on fine form to leave a determined Nico Rosberg now doing the chasing with four rounds to go.
A new track brings equal opportunities, despite Mercedes having dominated in 2014, although an additional disruption that may play its role in the build-up to the latest event this weekend is Typhoon Phanfone, which hit the recent Japanese Grand Prix that was delayed due to the subsequent sodden conditions.
The rain caused havoc in Japan, although the result was still a perfect one for the runaway Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Rosberg, the former's fabulous pass around the outside of Rosberg hitting his team-mate hard in their own dice for the World Championship, Hamilton now lying an extended 10 points clear having been 29 adrift at one stage.
Rosberg's 9/4 odds with Coral for Sunday success in Sochi are worth a scoop, particularly with the Russian venue a complete unknown as it makes its F1 bow.
Hamilton's recent run of relentless success however makes him very difficult to bet on at 8/11 best with BetVictor for Russian Grand Prix success this weekend, despite the equality still there between the Mercedes pair making each race tough to predict a winner from both.
The treble race-winning streak of the Briton across Italy, Singapore and Japan puts Hamilton firmly in the driving seat now for a second F1 title, although with four races still remaining and 125 points still on offer, Rosberg's odds to be World champion are still much more profitable.
Alternatively, the bragging rights of claiming a 'Grand Chelm' - pole, win and fastest lap - is also an enticing betting opportunity, Hamilton at 5/2 to sweep the weekend with Coral while Rosberg sits at 7/1.
WIth a new circuit comes a clean slate for all teams and drivers, and that could be where the likes of Red Bull and Williams profit. The long straights at Sochi may help the latter at least challenge for the podium, while Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo is the outside underdog bet at 14/1 with Betfred - very backable should race continue to be forecast.
His team-mate made all the pre-Japanese Grand Prix headlines, Sebastian Vettel having announced he will be leaving the Red Bull Racing squad he won the previous four World Championships with to join Ferrari in 2015, Toro Rosso youngster Daniil Kyvat set to replace the German for his second season.
This shifts the uncertain Fernando Alonso out onto the dirvers market astonishingly, rumoured to be likely on his way back to McLaren who he infamously endured a ruthless relationship with back in 2007, Honda supplying their former employees with a powerplant from next season.
Thoughts prior to the race are however obviously with Marussia driver Jules Bianchi and his friends and family, the Frenchman currently still hospitalised in a 'critical but stable' condition, following his horrific accident which brought the Japanese Grand Prix to a premature end.
We at Freebets.com wish Bianchi a full and speedy recovery.
The Russian Grand Prix gets underway at noon on Sunday (UK Time), shown live on Sky Sports F1 and BBC.