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McLaren driver Lando Norris has become a regular on the F1 podium this season
Free F1 advice, best bets and analysis for the Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix in Sochi
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Practice three Sky Sports F1, 10 a.m., Saturday
Qualification Sky Sports F1, 1 p.m., Saturday
Lando Norris on the podium of the Russian Grand Prix
1pt 9-4 general
McLaren won the first double of the season for any team last time in Italy, and Mercedes are in first place to do the same at the Russian Grand Prix on Sunday.
Max Verstappen leads the championship by five points heading into the weekend, but ace Red Bull will start from behind in Sochi on Sunday.
Verstappen was already facing a three-place drop on the grid as punishment for his collision with title rival Lewis Hamilton in Italy last time around, and the team opted to give him a new engine, which gave him a lets take the last place.
Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas went from last to third at Monza after the same penalty, but Verstappen complained during practice that it was impossible to overtake. The Dutchman got stuck behind Nicholas Latifi’s Williams during his race simulation run on Friday afternoon.
That doesn’t bode well for his big-point scoring chances, and left some sort of opening for Hamilton and Mercedes, who have dominated the track since its introduction in 2014.
They were in menacing form in training, as Bottas beat Hamilton for the fastest time in both sessions on Friday.
Charles Leclerc will start right in front of Verstappen, his Ferrari having been fitted with an improved powertrain for this weekend.
Time threatens to throw a wrench in the works. The forecast for Saturday calls for rain all day and the clerk of the course acknowledged the possibility that qualifying could take place later than expected, or even on Sunday morning.
Mixed conditions are expected for race day, although nothing on the scale that caused the non-event in Belgium a few weeks ago.
Fresh off their first victory since 2012, McLaren will see the penalties of Verstappen and Leclerc as a golden opportunity to clinch another podium.
With qualifying conditions uncertain it might be better to look for a value early in the race and Lando Norris is a good bet to clinch another top three spot.
The young Briton already has four podiums to his name this season, finished fourth in practice in Sochi and is doing well in the wet.
His McLaren also has an impressive top speed, which means that if qualifying doesn’t go as planned, he will have the tools to win places in the race.
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FIRST POSTED 18:15, SEP 24 2021